Class, patriarchy, and women's work in Bangladesh

Cain, M.; Khanam, S.R.; Nahar, S.

Population and Development Review 5(3): 405-438


ISSN/ISBN: 0098-7921
DOI: 10.2307/1972079
Document Number: 366095
A set of data, collected between 1976 and 1978 in Char Gopalpur, a village in Mymensingh District of Bangladesh, is used to analyze women's roles in a rural economy. Women's work is analyzed in the context of the powerful system of male dominance that operates in the society. Patriarchy is grounded in control of material resources and supported by elements of the kinship, political and religious systems. Important consequences of the system are that women are placed at risk of abrupt declines in economic status; under the pressure of increasing poverty, the proportion of women who must fend for themselves is increasing and women face a highly restricted labour market, both spatially and functionally, resulting in low wages and high rates of unemployment. The paper documents the division of labour by sex, seasonal variations in labour utilization, and the structure of the rural female labour market. Implications for fertility behaviour, population policy and employment policy are considered.

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