Change in Attitudes Beliefs and Practices Regarding Gender

As in most countries, here too, rural communities are regarded as "backward," and their women specially so. As nomads, the Bakkarwal are considered to be even more backward than other rural communities in the area. The increasing exposure of the entire community to government programs and, through these, to the norms and values of middle-class sedentary urban society is leading to changes in many gender-related norms, attitudes, and practices. Traditional dresses and caps are being abandoned, and widow remarriage is on the decrease, for in the wider society in which the Bakkarwal live, those to be emulated (no longer) practice widow remarriage.

Greater formal schooling is also bringing about change. Bakkarwal children who had attended schools for longer periods spoke with contempt about their community, and notably about their mothers. Yet, most parents favor schooling, as they hope that at least their sons could then get government jobs. Fathers who wanted to send their daughters to school cited various reasons, all of which related to imbibing the culture of what they considered domesticity in the dominant culture; the mothers' arguments for schooling girls were economic. Those who did not favor schooling their daughters mentioned their fear of the child's learning evil ways.

The general upward social mobility is also leading to a certain Islamization. This is evident from the fact that wedding songs and brightly colored clothes were beginning to be frowned upon by some.

The ongoing armed violence in Jammu and Kashmir has affected Bakkarwal society over the last decade. Migration patterns have been impacted drastically, and several Bakkarwal families have been physically targeted by both terrorists from Pakistan and Indian military personnel—men, women, and children have been mutilated and killed, and there have been cases of rape. Further studies will be required to ascertain the impact of these events on gender relations.

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