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Old 02-26-2007, 08:28 PM   #16
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I thought you were referring to another kind.
What other kind of education is there?
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Old 02-26-2007, 08:33 PM   #17
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Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar


What other kind of education is there?
"Awareness" programs
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Old 02-26-2007, 08:36 PM   #18
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"Awareness" programs
So awareness isn't education?
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Old 02-26-2007, 09:52 PM   #19
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That's awful.
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Old 02-27-2007, 06:34 AM   #20
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Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar


So awareness isn't education?
Another kind doesn't mean it is no, does it?
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Old 02-27-2007, 08:59 AM   #21
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I should have clarified my question and asked if a man would be beaten to death by family members . I wonder if it's telling/significant that it was her in laws who did it.
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Old 02-27-2007, 09:13 AM   #22
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Another kind doesn't mean it is no, does it?
True, but his willingness to ignore the other "kind" had me puzzled?
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Old 02-27-2007, 09:16 AM   #23
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Being abstinent is 100% effective for STD's, unfortunately abstinence programs don't hardly approach that.
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Old 02-27-2007, 03:25 PM   #24
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^ Right, well, they already have an "abstinence program" supplied by cultural traditions common to Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike (all of whom get AIDS), which is that neither men nor women should have sex outside of marriage--and you can see how well that's held up to changing family circumstances (men working alone in cities far from home for long periods)...5.7 million AIDS cases. To not teach people what AIDS is and how it's spread, or that transmission can usually be prevented by using a condom, is to say that you don't care if millions continue to die so long as the "right" values are being taught.
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Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
I should have clarified my question and asked if a man would be beaten to death by family members . I wonder if it's telling/significant that it was her in laws who did it.
It would be interesting to know if violent assaults committed by in-laws also happen in matrilineal areas; unfortunately I have no idea what the answer to that is. I think it's fair to say that one thing which is potentially problematic about either patrilineal or matrilineal systems (in which the newly married woman or man, respectively, uproots themselves from their family of birth and moves in with their husband's/wife's family where, realistically, they're likely to constitute a net drain on resources until their children are old enough to compensate) is that they put said spouse in an especially vulnerable position. But again, having AIDS sufferers around is a new and unprecedented situation in most villages, so you can't discount the effect of plain old fear on what may happen there--for all many people know, it might as well be the plague or leprosy or something; they don't understand what it is, only that it obviously spreads somehow (look, now she has it too!) and that it's clearly fatal, and sometimes people can do awful things when they're convinced the mere presence of another person is a threat to their lives. Plus as I mentioned earlier, other villagers may well react by banishing the entire family (or denying them access to wells, schools etc.) if they see them harboring multiple afflicted persons--"today their family, tomorrow my own".

Perhaps what you had in mind by relating "how some of the treatment of women in India is" to this case was sati, widow-burning. Sati is an interesting example of how popular representations of early 'human rights campaigns' became entangled with 19th century "white-man's-burden" justifications for imperialism, and I often find Westerners have a wildly disproportional sense of how common it was/is. Basically, sati was and is almost exclusively limited to specific castes in specific areas. For example, British East India Company records (e.g., Bentinck's 1829 On Ritual Murder in India) show that the practice was nearly confined to a group of "warrior" (Kshatriya) castes native to specific regions of Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, among whom it apparently originated; that well under 1% of widows with that background commited sati; and that most Indians had never even heard of the practice, let alone observed it. It's thought to have originated from a "chivalric" custom where women and, in some cases, children and other dependents, "voluntarily" threw themselves on the husband's funeral pyre after he was killed in battle...making "give me honor or give me death" a family affair.

The "British" campaign against it which Bentinck was associated with was actually instigated and sustained by Indian reformers led by Ram Mohan Roy. Nevertheless, the British were content to let the ban be presented abroad as an instance of a supposedly widespread "Hindoo abomination" being decisively ended through "enlightened" British intervention, and that myth seems to have stuck. Unfortunately, Roy's campaign did not succeed in forever abolishing all incidences of sati, and in fact based on government records it seems to have increased significantly after the British changed property laws in the 19th century to require that all land be registered in the name of one man who "owned" it, converting land into capital and ending the tradition of collective ownership via familial and marital bonds in rural areas. (Not coincidentally, this seems to have been when the modern Indian understanding of "dowry" as a price paid by the bride's family to the groom's--'thank you for relieving us of this financial burden,' basically--emerged as well. Illegal nowadays, but still widely practiced.) So, over time an obscure rite occasionally practiced by specific groups in specific areas became a somewhat more generalized concept of how to rid oneself of a burdensome daughter-in-law--with the emphasis on 'somewhat,' as it still occurs overwhelmingly among people from the aforementioned castes and regions. Most authorities reckon an average of about 2000-3000 'sati murders' a year (out of a population over 1.1 billion) is about right, but it's very hard to get a precise figure there because so many districts lump any and all murders of women by relatives--wife-beating, 'crimes of passion', perverse stuff from the urban criminal underworld, etc.--into a reporting category theoretically meant only for murders committed for the 'traditional' reasons of widowhood or dowry.
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Old 02-27-2007, 05:36 PM   #25
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This is horrible.
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Old 02-27-2007, 09:41 PM   #26
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That is terrible. But if you read about the history of their culture and the 'untouchables' in their social ladder, you wouldn't be a bit surprised. Maybe someday humanity will rise above such deep rooted, ingrained hatreds.
EXACTLY - I remember taking a "religious studies" class back in the 80's which for the short time I sat in on the class was about Hinduism - after several weeks the professor asked each one of us what the most significant thing we learned was...my answer..."I've learned to hate Hinduism". I still do. Not all Hindus - but the religion. It stinks!!!
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Old 02-28-2007, 12:55 AM   #27
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Sounds like you were a thoughtful student, or perhaps it was your professor who "stank".

This isn't really the place to get into a detailed discussion of 'untouchability', but just for starters, persecution based on caste isn't in any way mandated by Hinduism, which has no universally accepted sacred texts, and no universally accepted 'theological' underpinnings beyond those it shares with Buddhism: the karmic cycle of death and rebirth, and the possibility of liberation from that (moksa). 'Hinduism' as a word comes from a catchall Persian term for the peoples who lived beyond the Indus River (Sindhu); not until the 19th century did it come to be used (by Europeans) as a term denoting a full-fledged theological system theoretically shared by all Indians who weren't Muslims, Christians, Buddhists etc. (The Moghuls, by contrast, divided their subjects into about 20 different religions, although that too had little to do with how said subjects perceived themselves.) 19th-century Western anthropologists furthered the confusion by treating certain texts which happened to be more widely known and revered than others as the sine qua non of "what Hindus believe", with consequently inappropriate references to, e.g., the Bhagavad Gita as the "Bible of Hinduism." Under the rule of the Raj, this was compounded by misguided attempts to grant the locals some autonomy in matters of communal-practice legislation--but only if there was a uniform text to be used as a reference, hence the arbitrary elevation of a first-century text called the Manusmriti (Laws of Manu) to the position of The definitive source of 'Hindu' law, despite the fact that most 'Hindus,' priests and monks included, had never heard of it.

When introducing caste to my students for the first time, I usually tell them they might best think of it as a cross between the guild system of late medieval and early modern Europe, and a "tribe" as we normally understand that. Like guilds, castes are a traditional means of handing down trade-specific skills across generations and fostering collective representation of a particular trade within the economic sphere; like tribes, they form endogamous groups into which people marry and in which certain customs unique to each group (even while many other cultural traditions are shared with neighboring "tribes") are retained. Caste (Sanskrit jati) predates what we would commonly consider early Hinduism (i.e., the Vedic period) but was overlaid during that time by the Aryans' fourfold varna system--priests (Brahmins), warriors and regents (Kshatriyas), merchants (Vaishyas) and manual laborers and tradesmen (Sudras)--orginally an Indo-European way of dividing up society related to, e.g., the ancient Celtic division into druids, kings, warriors and commoners (although the textual basis for those precise divisions is murkier). Undoubtedly this had the effect of amplifying whatever hierarchial aspect to jati already existed, however, there's no evidence that there was any sort of generally accepted 'pariah' status ascribed to certain castes at that time. Some later texts, however, such as the aforementioned Manusmriti, do indeed allude to ideas (which they treat as a foregone conclusion already known to everyone) that certain kinds of Sudra jobs--leather-working, latrine-cleaning, scavenging, cremating etc.--are so "polluting" as to make contact with anyone who performs them (sharing wells, temples, etc.) spiritually "impure." On the other hand, other texts from the same period referring to caste reflect no awareness of such thinking.

By about the 5th century, awareness of cultural variations on the perceived hierarchical implications of jati seemed to be widespread, and from then on we find increasingly specific terminology for what we now call 'untouchability,' as well as intense debate about its legitimacy--sometimes across sect lines (e.g., Samprayadists vs. Bhaktins), sometimes within sects. These debates continued on into the colonial period. What seems to be the case is that, with wide variations depending on location and period, a social practice of discriminating against people in certain occupations (common enough worldwide, as far as it goes) developed through economic stagnation and social isolation into an outright institution which in some cases received religious sanction, in others not; but often that distinction mattered little, as there was no centralized authority for mandating and enforcing such matters. The British themselves noted that persecution of 'untouchables', as they dubbed them, was rampant and blindingly obvious in some areas, apparently absent in others; they also noted that Indian Muslims, Sikhs and Christians observed caste as well, including the institution of 'untouchability,' in areas where that institution was rife. In some cases they worked to counteract this practice (for example, reserving government positions for 'untouchables'), in other cases unwittingly or not reinforcing it (granting special privileges to Brahmin castes, providing separate food and water supplies for various castes in the army, etc.). And as with sati (see my reply to MrsS above), such success as colonial-era reform movements led by Hindus--Roy, Dayanand, Paramahamsa, etc.--had against 'untouchability' was often taken credit for by Raj officials, and peddled to Her Majesty's parliament back home as further evidence of the "Hindoo abominations" they needed to be there to stamp out.

In independent India, caste discrimination is illegal and there's a mammoth federal 'affirmative action' program--"scheduling", their Constitution calls it--in place to guarantee better-than-proportional placement for Dalits ('untouchables') in government and civil service jobs. No one (well, other than the outlawed Ranvir Sena terrorist group) criticizes this as "anti-Hindu," or an attack on religious traditions, or anything of the sort. However, as with most things Indian (and as in most developing countries), the arm of the law is often short, especially in the villages where nearly three-quarters of the population still lives, and that is where most of the horror stories one hears about Dalits being denied access to wells, turned out of jobs, or beaten to death or gang-raped by mobs following some trumped-up criminal charge come from. Many consider the fact that the Indian government forbids inclusion of caste in the Census to be a well-intentioned, but ultimately self-defeating measure, as it makes it impossible to get a proper fix on to what extent the economic welfare of Dalits has improved.

I can understand why people here often have misconceptions about the nature and extent of caste-based violence--it is a very, very complicated matter and even for Indian authorities, often difficult to make empirically justifiable generalizations about. My doctoral dissertation dealt with caste politics and I tore my hair out over the difficulty of getting my hands on hard data (as well as over some of the real-life examples of Dalit persecution I witnessed) many times. However, in my view, making the associative leap from knowing that caste-based persecution is a major--and awful--component of Indian history (much like brutalization of African-descended peoples is in ours), to sweeping characterizations of Hinduism as an evil religion, or Indians as the kind of barbaric people you'd expect to beat up AIDS victims, is plain old racism pure and simple.
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