Monday, August 20, 2007

Women and the Political Economy (Globalization)

Women and the political economy special reference to Globalization, is a relevant and widely discussed topic. Let us start with understanding what is the nature of present economy? Cohen and Kennedy identifies six components of Globalization, they are:
Changing concepts of time and space
An increasing volume of cultural interactions
the commonality of problems facing all the world’s inhabitants
growing interconnections and interdependencies
a network of increasingly powerful transnational actors and organizations and
the synchronization of all the dimensions involved in globalization[1].
Under the heading of ‘Women and the political economy’ the positive effects and negative effects of globalization on women discussed and also some of the ways of challenging it.
Positive Effects of Globalization
On the positive side, globalization has contributed to bring about welcome changes in the
lives of women who have been able to avail of the opportunities, which have opened up
in the various sectors of development.
Globalization has opened up broader communication lines and brought more companies as well as different worldwide organizations into India. This provides opportunities for not only workingmen, but also women, who are becoming a larger part of the workforce. These jobs offered high pay, which raises self-confidence on women and brings about independence. This can promote equality between the sexes, something that Indian women have been struggling with their entire lives. Globalization has the power to uproot the traditional views towards women so they can take an equal stance in society[2].
Prospects of higher and quality education have become feasible for those women who can afford them, economically and socially.

Employment in technological and other advanced sectors, which have global bearing, has opened up for suitably qualified women. This boosted augmentation of women’s movements through exposures at the International level will help bring about major changes in the economic, social and political lives of women. This has impacted in the attitude towards women, especially in the urban areas, women enjoy more egalitarian set of gender relationship. Reduction in gender inequalities will have positive effect on women’s empowerment in the socio-economic context. This attitude changes not only in the office but also in the home, will help in the development of more confident among women.

Negative effects of Globalization
Under this heading, I like to discuss some of the areas;
Agriculture and land
According to estimates from World Development Indicators, “Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, but earn only ten percent of the world’s income, and own less than one percent of the world’s property (Tomlinson)”[3]. Women are suffering two fold. As women in developing countries move into the work force, their domestic responsibilities are not alleviated. Women work two full time jobs. One in a factory, where they are paid next to nothing, the second is in the home where they are paid nothing.
The three prominent rice-growing states of India are Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, women provide more than 2/3 of the inputs including transplanting, weeding, manuring and fertilizing, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, drying, stacking and carrying produce. In the tribal economy of Orissa, women spent 105.4 hours per year on shifting cultivation compared with 50.11 by the men[4].
Women's double burden - working long hours in the field as well as attending to household works like cooking and collecting water and fuel for the day - is often taken for granted.
Development for poor women has meant the migration of men to cities, higher prices for commodities, poorer job opportunities. “The mixture of corporate capitalism and Western culture models is dissolving family and community social controls as witnessed by higher rates of family violence, rape, divorce, and family breakdown”[5].

On the other side,The traditional role of women in agriculture,livestock and animal
husbandry, Khadi and village industries including handicrafts, handlooms, fisheries, etc, is being undermined because mechanization and automation is becoming prevalent in the market based economy which will adversely affect the village based traditional economy.
Curtailment of state provisions in child care, community care and social security, will increase the dual burden of employment and family responsibilities for women in general.

Privatisation of education and training will increase the cost of getting educated. When family budgets are readjusted, the female children will be the main casualty because most of the resources will be spent to educate the male children.
Several scholars emphasize the links between female infanticide, the practice of giving a dowry, the devaluation of females and the alienation of land, women's labour, etc. Krishnaswamy adds hypergamous marriages to the list of reasons for the practice of female infanticide. These marriages prevented the woman from marrying a person of lower social standing, and led to the giving of large dowries because the economic value of the female was lowered. Another reason for female infanticide was the superstitious believes like if you kill a female child, the next one is sure to be a male[6].
"Among the poor, since female labour participation is typically higher and dowry incidence lower than among well-to-do households. But if underemployment among the poor women is high, so that their realized contribution to the household income is low or cultural factors in the region make for strong son-preference and high dowry among all classes, then despite more women entering the labour force, there would be a stronger bias against girls under poverty conditions”[7].
Another issue related with this issue is female infanticide.Even though it is the father who determines the sex of a child, the mother is condemned as unable to give birth to a son[8].The violence of female infanticide, like any other violence against women, is rooted in patriarchy. Those who control the woman's body appropriate the material benefits. Every aspect of a woman's body, sexuality and reproductive rights is reduced to a commodity, completely devaluating her.

Migration of women
Globalization promises to open the "gateway to heaven" in terms of opportunities, availability of labour across boundaries and building one true world. However, what happens is that, a majority of communities and families in the Third World get fragmented so that an exclusive minority may live as citizens of one globalized world.
Globalization offers these women opportunities of work outside their homes, but at the price of surrendering their human rights[9]. Migration of women specially for economic reasons often give rise to exploitation and trafficking in women at the local, regional and global levels.
Beauty pageants and globalization
Women are asked to compare their beauty with one another: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” Indian women, for whom the beauty pageant was once an alien concept, are today successfully drawn into the globalized capitalist system. Woman is identified in terms of her body. Globalization and its impact through the media have defined the ideal body of a “universal” and a “world” woman in India. One of the characteristics of globalization is fragmentations slim, tall, fair, blonde, blue-eyed, etc. An ideal feminine body is defined in terms of its slender shape. “Beauty can never be celebrated by the new global culture. It can only be vulgarized”.[10]

The newspapers and other marriage bureau also reveal the discriminatory gender slant in announcing the need for a bride or a groom. Women in a global market economy set-up are just another commodity to be bought and sold at a price.

Tourism and sex trade
Globalization created competition among states that attempt to make their state wealthier by boosting the economy. The most recent strategy being employed in third world states to bring in foreign currency in the form of tourism. In Britain, just forty percent of the population cannot afford an annual holiday, so the potential of tourism as a national income for third world countries is huge. “In Thailand, the Philippines, the Caribbean, West Africa and Brazil, the growing sex industry is closely linked with the expansion of tourism”[11].

In many of the developing countries, informal sector tourism is inseparable from the sex trade industry of women and children. Sex tourism is based on networks that provide services such as tourist guides, prostitutes, brothels, massage parlors, that serve not only foreign sex tourists but local customers as well. Many people are attracted towards this environment because of the possibility of obtaining money through these activities that do not require any special skill but where the work tool is the body itself. In the case of boys and girls and adolescents, those who are not prostituted are exposed to crime and exploitation. Tourism is not the cause of the sexual exploitation of minors, but it does provide easy access to vulnerable children[12].

Globalisation is a double edged process as far as women are concerned. On the one hand, majority of women in India and other developing countries find themselves stripped off the benefit of social security, government subsidy protection of labour rights and than safety nets. On the other hand there are possibilities of better education facilities and opportunities at the transnational sense which are very attractive to the privileged few.

The main goal of the Department of Women and Child Development is to empower women and to bring them within the purview of the mainstream development process.
Also the capacities and capabilities of women addressing their own development have been the main focus of important NGOs and women’s organizations. But most of the time, what happens is these commendable projects act as information supply agents which do not deal with information demands of special groups such as women. Women get information through various sources that are often not geared to their specific requirements. The activities of economic development of women should be done by them and for them.


Agarwal, Bina ed. Structures of Patriarchy. New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1988.

Kishwar, Madhu. "When Daughters are Unwanted: Sex Determination Tests in India', Manushi, Jan – Feb, 1995.

Krishnaswamy, S. "Female Infanticide in Contemporary India: A Case study of Kallars of Tamil Nadu', in Rehana Ghadially, ed., Women in Indian Society

Mayo, Marjorie. Global Citizens. New York: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc, 2005.
Stephen, Cynthia ed. Women in India: Profiles and Herstories. Bangalore: National Alliance of Women, 1996.
http://www.warc. 29/7/2007.

[1] Marjorie Mayo, Global Citizens (New York: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc, 2005),16.
[2] The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India is a union of women laborers willing to work and seize any work opportunities they might get. SEWA has established a Women’s Cooperative Bank with 125,000 members, and through the aid of globalization, they have even reached the women in the rural areas of India. 28/7/07.


[4] Cynthia Stephen, ed. Women in India: Profiles and Herstories (Bangalore: National Alliance of Women, 1996), p.25.

[6] Bina Agarwal, ed. Structures of Patriarchy (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1988), p.102.
[7] S Krishnaswamy, "Female Infanticide in Contemporary India: A Case study of Kallars of Tamil Nadu', in Rehana Ghadially, ed., Women in Indian Society, p.186.
[8] Between 1978 and 1982, there were about 78,000 cases of post-amniocentesis female foeticides in India. .Madhu Kishwar, "When Daughters are Unwanted: Sex Determination Tests in India', Manushi, no.86, (Jan - Feb 1995), pp.15f.

[9] There is very little one can do to redeem women from such situations as their passports are usually taken away from them on arrival in the strange land. 29/7/2007.

[10] Global watchers and feminist critics say that there is a direct link between the 1991 announcement by the then finance minister, Manmohan Singh, that India would open its markets to the outside world and the victories of Aishwarya Rai as Miss World and Sushmita Sen as Miss Universe in 1994. 29/7/2007

[12] “About 200 girls and women enter prostitution daily, 80 per cent unwillingly”. It is important to note here that females are not just ‘pushed’ into prostitution by a combination of multinational corporations and international bodies but are also ‘pulled’ into prostitution by the increasing ‘sex tourist’ phenomenon. More than 30 million women and children have been victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in Asia in the past 30 years” (UNICEF). Bangkok is a major destination for sex tourists and the government have allowed this to prosper as a source of national income by “passing an Entertainment Places Act [1966], which had enough loopholes to encourage coffee shops and restaurants to add prostitution to their menus” .

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