From an interpretation of gender relations in the Chhattisgarhi plains of central India, this paper contributes to theoretical debates on the regional geography of female autonomy and its economic or cultural underpinnings. It seeks to unpack the multi-layered dynamic of gender relations in Chhattisgarh that defy easy generalisation. Kinship systems for non-adivasi groups follow important ‘northern’ or exogamous principals, which are argued, by Dyson and Moore’s thesis, to be unfavourable to female power or autonomy. Counter-intuitively, gender relations are relatively egalitarian when judged by indicators such as sex ratio, and attitudes towards female sexuality or remarriage, while son-preference in the family composition finds a sharp expression. Whereas Chhattisgarh displays unique cultural characteristics, the dependence on women’s labour in the state’s rice-based agrarian economy may make women’s position less susceptible to subordination, and conceivably mitigate the predicted unfavourable-to-women effects of exogamous marriage.
- female autonomy
- sex ratio