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Abstract

Reports responses to interviews conducted in three rural villages in Eastern India in January 2000 as well as replies to questions asked at a forest meeting in West Bengal of groups/persons interested in rural women and development. The questions were designed to provide information on gender-bias and possible reasons for it, especially any economic reasons. These interviews supplemented detailed questionnaires directed to wives in these villages. Interviews were conducted with Kondhs in a village (Badala) west of Dashapalla in Orissa, with Santals in an all Santal village, (Bandhgora) in the Midnapore region of West Bengal and with Santals and scheduled caste Hindus in a mixed village, (Sadanandapur) in the same region. The results highlight significant differences between tribal people and scheduled caste Hindus in the status accorded to females. Differences in the entitlements of males and females emerge. While the two tribal groups interviewed both display male dominance, it is less marked amongst tribals than amongst non-tribals. In those tribal groups considered here, a bride-price is normally paid whereas in non-tribal Hindu families a ‘groom price’ is paid. This contributes to a significant difference in attitudes to female children on the part of tribals and non-tribals. Entitlements, as suggested by Sen’s theory, are shown to be gender-relevant. In addition, it is found that economic theories of the family (especially those that rely on game theory and allow for threats) help to explain the results observed. Community-wide social discrimination is also considered as an additional factor in gender and ethnic prejudice.

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