Divisions, Intersections, and Demographics: Women’s Human Rights and Reproductive Justice in India

Joshua Kepkay

Abstract


Tensions continue to endure between the right to cultural accommodation and women’s human rights within multicultural states. This research examines a variety of secondary sources to compare the autonomy of Muslim women with Hindu women across India. Both are found to possess some autonomy in their lives and over their bodies, although areas of independence vary with each culture. Kinship model and geographic location are perhaps the most important indicators of the autonomy available to a woman in India with religion proving to be of only periphery importance once all variables are evaluated. In the pursuits of human rights, cultural identity presents the key difference between Muslim and Hindu women. It impacts both to whom they address their claims for gender justice and how they present those claims. Hindu women are better situated under federal legislation to exit from abusive marriages because their group is the majority. As such, the largely Hindu societal culture is more receptive to their claims. Muslim women, however, as part of a minority group, face cultural barriers that inhibit the state’s accommodation of their human rights.


Keywords


feminism; women’s rights; reproductive rights; patriarchy; India; Muslim; Hindu; Shah Bano; Muslim Personal Law; kinship models; maternal health; multiculturalism

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ISSN 1923-1334 (Online)

University of Victoria