Modernization’s Effects on Gender Equality in China and India

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For the purpose of this essay, we will ascribe to a conception of “progress” that promotes equality in the realms of education, occupational opportunity, independence, geographic and marital freedom, property rights, and reproductive rights. This is not the place to attempt to prove this ideological conception as objectively correct—these standards are the author’s personal metric, and will serve as one of many lenses through which one might examine the subtle nature of gender roles across different cultures.

Throughout the 20th century, gender equality increased significantly in China and remained relatively stagnant in India. This discrepancy, however, is not due to a greater opportunity for demand politics from women in China. Rather, women’s empowerment in China was a mere vehicle for economic production, a progressive transformation for the sake Maoist goals. India, on the other hand, was more concerned with “peaceful change” than revolution, and its parliamentary system did not, in actuality, promote or allow demand politics. Hence, women’s social roles stagnated. In both countries, modernization occurred with little regard for women, and their rights were further ignored in the reform periods and throughout liberalization. In both countries, the progress that occurred for women was either exclusively economic or exclusively motivated by economic goals, which left them with no basis for unity or demand politics in any realm but labor.

In Nehru’s India, women were victims of a “passive revolution” that subtly advanced bourgeoisie men of higher castes under a guise of parliamentary democracy. Though women have presided over the Indian National Congress, served as a prime minister, and represent a large part of India’s la...

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...le power to implement policy on the local level--the autonomic dominance of local leaders in rural areas allowed them to ignore things like social causes. Thus, throughout “revolution”, liberalization, and through the present, women have never been able to find unity or attain and utilize demand politics in India or China.

Works Cited:

Blecher, Marc. China Against The Tides: Restructuring through Revolution, Radicalism, and Reform. 3rd ed. New York: Continuum, 2010. Print.

Drèze, Jean, and Amartya Sen. "Gender Inequality and Women's Agency." India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity. Delhi: Oxford UP, 1995. Web.

Friedman, Sara L. "Women, Marriage and the State in Contemporary China." Chinese Society: Change, Conflict, and Resistance. Ed. Elizabeth J. Perry and Mark Selden. London: Routledge, 2000. Print.

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