Academic journal article Social Development Issues

Exploring the Disparity in Reproductive Health Status between Tribal and Nontribal Women in India

Academic journal article Social Development Issues

Exploring the Disparity in Reproductive Health Status between Tribal and Nontribal Women in India

Article excerpt

Introduction

India is often presented as a success story of globalization, free market economy, and democracy where emerging billionaires purchase personal aircraft for their convenience, construct the most expensive dwelling residences in the world, and often surface as the buyer-saviors for failing state-owned industries in other countries. These illustrations of the developing nations and emerging corporations worldwide validate the fact that, with the second largest population, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world (Pradhan, 2010; Singh & Dahiya, 2010) and has secured its place among the ten most emerging industrialized nations in the world due to its steady growth, mainly in services and manufacturing sectors (Singh & Dahiya, 2010). The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in India has increased to US$1154, and the nation is one of the most lucrative and emerging consumer and financial markets (Pradhan, 2010). Growing numbers of cities and city dwellers are replacing the traditional rural India and its lifestyles (Sridhar, 2010).

Although India's city skylines are climbing rapidly, the fact that the globalized free market economy nourishes new poverty remains a crucial problem for most of the Indian population. About 42 percent of the total population earns US$1.25 per day, which places them below the international poverty line (United Nations Children's Fund [UNICEF], 2010). Despite a large competent technical workforce with excellent reputation worldwide, India still struggles with high unemployment and poverty. Rapid economic development of India has not benefitted all, and the income gap between rich and poor shows an increasing trend. This is particularly true for the marginalized social class such as tribal populations of India who appear to be dispossessed by the Indian society, resulting in exclusion from the mainstream socioeconomic development process. The next section will describe the social and historical background of the tribal populations with a view to highlight the disparity between the reproductive health status of tribal and nontribal populations.

Social and Historical Context

The disparity in the health status between tribal and nontribal populations of India needs to be understood within the context of the traditional social system that historically excludes these indigenous groups from the mainstream economic development of India. The thousand-year-old caste system has contributed to the marginalization of tribal populations. Caste, inherited from an individual's parents, determines his or her socioeconomic position, occupation, and many other aspects of life. Of four main divisions, the Brahmins, who are entitled to be the priests, scholars, and philosophers, are at the top of the hierarchy, with the Shudras, or the laborers and servants, also known as untouchables, at the bottom. The traditional Hindu caste system excludes the lower castes including the tribals from mainstream society and exploits them in various ways (Mohindra, Haddad, & Narayana, 2006; Padel & Das, 2010; Snaitang, 2004). Their advantageous position within the social structure with privileged access to resources provides the upper castes with more opportunities than the lower castes. Thus, there is an association between socioeconomic position and caste (Mohindra et al., 2006). Tribal communities in such a context are situated in the peripheral or marginal position of the overall Indian socioeconomic stratum. It is, however, noteworthy that not all the tribes in India are Hindu by religion. Contrary to the general assumption, a majority of the tribal populations living the mountainous states such as Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya of northeastern India are Christian (Chaube, 1999). About 75 million of the 84 million tribals are followers of major or dominant religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, or any sects of their traditional religion including Sarna Dharma, Sari Dharma, and Doni Polo. …

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