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Advisors: Künkler, Mirjam
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: The problem of violence against women in India is a critical human rights concern and a central question of citizenship: women across religious groups, castes, and regions experience acts of violence from which they are not adequately protected legally or socially. This thesis focuses specifically on the ways in which India’s central government can address this problem. Though the effects of recent policy reforms cannot yet be adequately discerned, the challenges of implementation across multi-ethnic states mean that sweeping reform is not a satisfactory answer to an entrenched and widespread social injustice. To dismiss experienced violence and poor policy implementation across regions as a cultural problem outside the purview of the central government, however, sells short India’s federal innovation and efficacy, failing Indian women in powerful ways. This thesis identifies a most promising central government intervention: a regionally tailored federal program centered on community mobilization, which has successfully empowered individual women, changed culture in specific villages, and mitigated increases in violence against women in the states in which it has been implemented. By accounting for regional variations in longstanding traditions and challenging them in constructive, specific, nonthreatening ways, this program makes more locally palatable national goals of protecting and advancing women across India. The methodology applied herein is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary exploration of the national policy problem of violence against women in India. After examining the historical, socio-cultural, and psychological context, this thesis applies economic theories of family decision-making and resource distribution to communal reactions to women’s empowerment in India, identifying the most successful practices for government welfare schemes. Careful analysis of the achievements of the regionally adaptive Mahila Samakhya Program in the three states in which it was implemented in 1989 illustrates the program’s promise: not only is its brief history one of impressive community-level successes, but the states in which it was implemented demonstrate dramatic improvements in terms of addressing violence against women when compared to similar states without the program. Ultimately, the goal herein is to identify the ways in which a government can best protect and provide for a multi-cultural citizenry. Though legal and judicial reforms are a valid response to public outcry and a necessary framework for central government priorities, they are not a satisfactory answer to entrenched cultural values across India. Regionally tailored programs, in contrast, have the potential to answer both the problem of violence against women and the question of accounting for – even preserving – cultural diversity.
Extent: 137 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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