Ms. Representation: Danger in disguise

In his paper, ‘Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development’, BR Ambedkar says that subjugation of women is inherent in the process of caste formation. “Man—as a maker of injunctions—is most often above them all,” says Ambedkar, as he formulates the genesis of caste. Endogamy is the essence of the caste system, and so, women who marry and reproduce become important for the caste system to flourish. Intercaste marriages are ‘allowed’ as ‘natural order’, when a man from a higher caste marries a woman from a lower caste (described in Manusmriti as anuloma).

However, an upper-caste woman marrying a man from the lower castes (called pratiloma) is banned. It’s thought ‘unnatural’ and worthy of ‘punishment’. That’s why we see devastating crimes occur around such developments. Furthermore, women are to be ‘taken by her father, then her husband, and later her son’. Woman, as an unwitting instrument in caste politics, is controlled, often by the violent suppression of sexual liberties. In speaking of caste, we must notice intersectionality and acknowledge the deep gender factor.

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