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Women's Autonomy in India and Pakistan: The Influence of Religion and Region

  • Economics
  • Religious Science


This article compares the lives of women and explores dimensions of their autonomy in different regions of South Asia-Punjab in Pakistan, and Uttar Pradesh in north India and Tamil Nadu in south India. It explores the contextual factors underlying observed differences and assesses the extent to which these differences could be attributed to religion, nationality, or north-south cultural distinctions. Findings suggest that while women's autonomy-in terms of decision-making, mobility, freedom from threatening relations with husband, and access to and control over economic resources-is constrained in all three settings, women in Tamil Nadu fare considerably better than other women, irrespective of religion. Findings lend little support to the suggestion that women in Pakistan have less autonomy or control over their lives than do Indian women. Nor do Muslim women-be they Indian or Pakistani-exercise less autonomy in their own lives than do Hindu women in the subcontinent. Rather, findings suggest that in the patriarchal and gender-stratified structures governing the northern portion of the subcontinent, women's control over their lives is more constrained than in the southern region. Copyright 2001 by The Population Council, Inc..

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