Do battered women in rural India have access to freedom?
This thesis reviews options available to women in rural India and whether these opportunities grant them freedom. Initially, I distinguish the term freedom from autonomy, recognizing the flaws in the theory of autonomy. I identify freedom as a human's ability to make choices without external coercion. This differs from the concept of autonomy because autonomy does not recognize culture as a form of coercion; autonomy also neglects to consider the possibility of a person making a decision that affects his or her life negatively. These concepts tie into battered women in rural India because of the pressure they receive from cultural forces to make decisions reflecting practiced gender norms. Through case study research, I found that battered women in India lack access to freedom, being unable to access their freedom because of the constant threat of violence and/or ostracism. I drew this conclusion after reviewing opportunities of financial freedom through micro-credit loans, land-owning, and women’s employment. I reflect on freedom of mobility, and examine women’s threat of violence in both the public and private sectors. Lastly, I reviewed women’s political freedom in rural India, reviewing laws that were passed to ensure women’s equality. Women in India are already in a vulnerable position because of existing gender norms that require women to perform tasks for the benefit of the men in her life. A woman under the threat of domestic violence is twice as vulnerable because of her positionality as a woman in her culture, as well as a wife in her marriage. She is bound by gender norms in society, as well as her expected marital duties as a wife. Being unable to escape the threat of violence in both her private and public spheres, a woman experiencing domestic violence has virtually no access to freedom. I suggest that state and community-level empowerment is necessary before individual-level empowerment is effective and culturally accepted.
- Joyave, Anna (Author)
- Behl, Natasha (Thesis advisor)
- Forrest, Michael D. (Committee member)
- Anokye, Akua D (Committee member)
- Arizona State University (Publisher)