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Gender and Culture in India

Friday, Dec. 3, 2010

A stint working at the Aarti Home orphanage in India inspires recent SCU graduate Sarah Bradley to reflect on the role of gender in Indian culture. 

"There's a very different gender dynamic in India, which, from a Western perspective, seems incredibly paradoxical," she reports. "The oppression of women is evident in India while at the same time, I've never witnessed so much respect for women.

"The mere existence of Aarti Home and the Vijay Foundation Trust illustrates that women are disadvantaged-families would rather have male children. Most of the orphans dumped on the home's doorstep are baby girls and there are millions of female babies aborted and killed after birth every year. This occurs because men are much more valued by families who see them as a net gain--the boy will become a man, gain a wife and often a dowry, and contribute to family income. Though contributing through work at home and receiving an education to then pass on to siblings, women will ultimately detract from family wealth due to the culturally necessary dowry and by leaving the family to join that of her husband."

Bradley went to India with help from a Hackworth grant from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.  Funded by a gift from Michael and Joan Hackworth, Hackworth grants support student and faculty research on issues in applied ethics.

Tags: campus ethics, India