Caste and Gender Relations in Hinduism

The Hindu society and caste system

The Hindu society is divided into several castes. The Brahmins are considered the highest caste and they are renowned for being intelligent and influential. They are also known to have a high level of moral and social code. The Brahmins hold most of the positions in the Hindu priesthood. While there are members of other castes of "sacred specialists", they are much lower in status than the Brahmins.

Identity and caste

Caste identity is often a source of conflict between individuals from different social groups. For example, high-caste individuals may react defensively when someone from a lower social class engages in an act which is deviant to their own norms. In such instances, they will seek to exclude the deviant from their group.

Class and caste

While the terms class and caste are often used synonymously, they have different meanings. A class is a social class. It is a group of people who share characteristics and behaviors. It is not a biological trait, but a social construct that is created through association.

Gender and caste

Caste and gender relations are rooted in the exercise of power through violence. The increasing violence in our societies enforces the 'order' and maintains caste and gender boundaries. In the past, there was no space for grievance, but with today's increasing violence, it is difficult to tell who is right and who is wrong.

Education and caste

Education is one of the most powerful tools to break down the walls of caste, enabling a person to rise through the social ladder. In addition, education helps people of lower castes overcome a variety of social disadvantages, such as the stigma attached to being a Dalit or a Muslim. In India, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes Act of 1989 and the Civil Rights Act of 1955 have enacted education and job quotas for these communities. However, despite these gains, many Dalits still suffer from discrimination, verbal harassment, and poor literacy rates.

Health care and caste

The inequities of health care between caste and non-caste groups are exacerbated by structural determinants of health, such as gender and class. Health care is not a biomedical or individual problem, but a social one. Social interventions should be the cornerstone of all health programs. Individual medical interventions are ineffective in changing social and structural factors that influence health.

Employment and caste

In India, caste and employment have traditionally been closely related. In the past, Dalits were relegated to unskilled work and were pejoratively referred to as "untouchables." After India's independence in 1947, the government introduced a reservation system, which gave Dalits and other indigenous groups greater access to the labor market. In time, it was expanded to include the middle castes, as well.

Religion and caste

The religion of caste in India is a contested topic. The debate is often characterized as an ideological one, with scholars debating the nature of the institution. For instance, one might debate whether conversion is a "convenience" or whether it is a "secular" institution. A similar debate would also focus on the role of caste in identity formation.

Conflicts between castes

In Indian society, there are conflicts between castes in a variety of forms. They are usually hierarchical and manifested in marriage and commensality. The intercaste relationship is also marked by division of labor and property. In Hinduism, castes are divided into groups called guthis. Each guth has a specific name and is typically headed by several elders. Guthis also have a specific function: they conduct rituals and host feasts in rotation. Some castes have a large number of guthis while others have many smaller ones. The priestly and artisan castes, for example, have large wards or guthis covering a large area. These groups often control caste members and have power beyond their settlement's boundaries.

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