Gender Roles in Economics

In the traditional caste-based system, in both rural and urban settings, a gender-based division of labor existed for middle- and upper-status households. Women were in charge of domestic work while most men worked outside the home. By contrast, most low-status women and men worked (and continue to work) outside the home as agricultural laborers, construction workers, sweepers, etc. Women were not involved in marketing, local or long-distance trade, or military service. Today, however, educated urban women have entered most businesses and professions.

The economic aspects of marriage negotiations (e.g., dowry) are a major arena of nonmarket exchange. Men are formally in charge of these but women also participate.

In practice, all property is inherited by males except for what is transferred as dowry to a daughter's husband and in-laws at marriage. Since independence, property rights have been contested: for example, the 1965 Hindu Succession Act gives daughters equal rights to their parents' "self-acquired" property, which does not include ancestral lands. However, this law has rarely been implemented in this and other regions of India (Agarwal, 1994; Basu, 1999).

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