The United Kingdom And India: A Study Of Gender And Economic/Regional Cleavages

2456 words - 10 pages

The United Kingdom and India: A Study of Gender and Economic/Regional Cleavages

Introduction

The United Kingdom, a former world power and colonizing empire, and India, the second most populous country in the world and former colony of the United Kingdom, share a bond of democracy. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with a Parliament consisting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Similarly, India is a federal state also with a parliamentary form of government. Despite these similar political systems, studies of the individual histories, economies, and political cultures of each country reveal cleavages within each society affecting aspects of the governments ...view middle of the document...

Despite these governmental attempts to close the gender gap, women share only twenty-eight percent of total labor income (although this has increased from seventeen percent in 1965), and, while women continue to spend more time than men doing unpaid domestic work, women receive only sixty-four percent of men's average hourly pay in the labor market (Horrell 12-13). Further, women are underrepresented in government--they compromise less than one-fifth of the House of Commons (Taylor 1), sixteen percent of the House of Lords, and only twenty-five percent of local councilors (Follett 3). According to Parliament member, Barbara Follett, these few women in the House of Commons must conform to a male culture that is "competitive, confrontational, conservative, conformist, and ceremonial..." (Follett 2).

The awareness of this gender cleavage led to an ideological cleavage within the political party system. Most recently, the Labour Party put forth the most effort to involve and appoint women to party leadership positions: during the 1990s, the party acquired a female general secretary, and in the government, five Cabinet members twenty-four ministers and five whips are women. Moreover, the 1997 election doubled women's representation in the House of Commons with the election of 10 1 female Labour MPs. The Conservative Party, on the other hand, is most reluctant to change. Although the Conservative government was led by Margaret Thatcher in 1979 (Makepeace 1), only thirteen women were elected MPs in the 1997 election, the same number as in the 1931 election. Other opposition parties elected only six female MPs, with the unionist parties electing no women (Follett 3-4).

India's gender cleavage, on the other hand, evidences not only in government and in the labor force, but also in the social realm. India's patriarchal society led to the traditional attitude that a woman's destiny is to "marry, serve her husband, and bear children" (Kazmin 1), so discrimination begins at birth as parents, knowing males will contribute to the family income and provide more old-age support, celebrate the birth of boys and neglect girls concerning aspects of food and health care (Harrison 115). In fact, one in every six newborn Indian girls will die before age fifteen due to parental neglect (Kazmin 2). These attitudes prevent parents from sending their daughters to school, resulting in an appalling female literacy rate of thirty-nine percent, in contrast to the male literacy rate is sixty-four percent (Harrison 120).

The effects of this gender cleavage influence not only governmental policy-making, but also civil society. As the male education level in India increases, the demand for better-educated brides and wives increases as well, so this has provided an incentive for parents to send their daughters to school (Harrison 120). Further, better-educated women have recently formed activist groups whose purpose is to demand more political influence (Kazmin 2) and...

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