Sociology of Otherness: Women in Kashmir

Recently Professor Aneesa Shafi was appointed the Head Department of Sociology at the University of Kashmir. She has authored several reports on women’s rights and capacity enhancement. In her ethnography, Working Women In Kashmir,” she finds that despite class differences, women struggle to balance professional and domestic duties, which in sociology we call “the double burden.”

Shafi conducted her study in Srinagar City, interviewing 400 Muslim married women who are in professional work (lecturers, teachers, public servants, doctors and similar jobs). Even where women had paid domestic help, and even if their husbands helped with housework, women were still left to supervise and coordinate housework, leaving them exhausted. They tended to cope by lowering expectations of what they could achieve in and outside the home.

At the same time, a “cooperative attitude” from their husbands, in-laws and support from their employers made “role conflict” easier to manage. Other more practical help also alleviates stress, such as having affordable childcare on premises of their work, as well as the provision of safe and reliable public transport.

Despite their unique local context, these findings have universal themes of gender equality faced by women in other parts of the world. Western media tends to paint developing and conflict-afflicted societies as being “backward,” treating women as helpless victims. Shafi’s research shows that working women struggle with similar issues that restrict their access and full participation of professional opportunities.

Photo: Urska Kosak

3 thoughts on “Sociology of Otherness: Women in Kashmir

  1. This does ring true! Pretty much all over India, there is a similar situation for the working, middle class woman. Pros and cons. Interestingly, there is not much gender disparity in wage and there are generous accommodations for women who have children (paid maternity leave, etc.). 


  2. That’s great that gender differences are not so pronounced amongst the middle class. Especially interesting about the progressive social policies regarding paid leave! I just had a look and women in India receive 12 weeks paid parental leave at 100%, while Government workers get more than twice that. But not in Jammu and Kashmir.

    In Australia, women receive 18 weeks but only at minimum wage. Our policy is about to change to 26 weeks at maximum wage- but it’s controversial and unlikely to work in the way the policy is currently drafted. I wish more countries followed the Scandinavian model which are generous for both men and women, and employers are encouraged to better support parents.


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