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Enforcing Cultural Codes: Gender and Violence in Northern India Author(s): Prem Chowdhry Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 32, No. 19 (May 10-16, 1997), pp. 1019-1028 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4405393 . Accessed: 28/03/2013 01:16 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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SPECIAL ARTICLES

Enforcing

Cultural
Prem Chowdhry

Codes

Gender and Violence in Northern India
Inter-caste and intra-caste marriages which infringe cultural normisand customary practices invariably lead to direct violence perpetrated by the male family members on the couple generally and on the girl specially. The author's analysis of this widespread phenomenon in rural north India throws up aspects of caste, class and gender which have a crucial interconnection. Most family related crimes like dowry, bride burning, rape and incest are well crimes.They aregiven enormous recognised publicity and draw social and academic interest,attentionand condemnation. One crimewhich continues to go neglected and underreported relates to the inter-casteand intra-caste which infringecultural marriages norms and customary practices. These are not infrequently run-away marriages and elopements. Perceived as common occurrences these have shown a tendencyto escalateover the years. Most of them lead to direct violence perpetratedby the male familymemberson the couple generallyand on the girl especially. Although they are decisively regarded as family or private matters, which remain hushed up and confidentialaffairs,some of them spill over into the wider community domain. It is in this sphere that they have attractedmedia attention. The following analysisof this widespread phenomenonin ruralnorthIndia throws up aspectsof caste,class andgenderwhich have a crucialinter-connection.'One of its most visible manifestations is in the greater emphasison the enforcement of caste and kinship codes. As marriage provides the structural link-upbetweenkinshipandcaste, a closersurveillance accordedto themarital is alliances. Kinship linkages provided by and marriage, relationsestablished through marriage,give a caste group its strength, recognitionand leverage in wider society andpolity.Any breachinthesecastelinkages brings down the status of not only the immediate familybutalso theclanandfinally the entirecaste group. This factor was and remainsa most potentconsiderationbehind the enforcementof strict caste and sexual codes. At the centre of these codes stands the female, control of whose sexuality and bestowal of this sexuality in marriage is crucial patriarchal to forcesandtheirconcern with caste purity, caste status, power and hierarchy.Those who infringe caste and kinship norms in marriage are dealt with extremeviolence.Althoughemphasisplaced upon caste/gender/sexualcodes by upper caste and lower caste groups differs, any infringement of the prescribed codes commonly evokes a violent response. A challengeto these codes has repeatedly come bothfromwithinthe casteandoutside. The processof democratisation opening and of economic opportunities,has altered the power dynamics making for a complexity of relationship betweenmembers different of caste groups as well as...
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