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Defying Gender Norms in Rural Bangladesh: A Social Demographic Analysis

Deborah Balk
Population Studies
Vol. 51, No. 2 (Jul., 1997), pp. 153-172
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2174683
Page Count: 20
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Defying Gender Norms in Rural Bangladesh: A Social Demographic Analysis
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Abstract

This study explores the social and demographic determinants of a woman's decision-making authority within the home and mobility outside of the home in staunchly patriarchal rural Bangladesh, in an attempt to understand better which women defy existing gender norms and why they do so. Although the characteristics of individual women matter, institutional determinants - operating at several levels - are the most salient features in determining who defies gender norms in rural Bangladesh. I find that about 25 per cent of the explainable variance in mobility and authority can be explained by individual level attributes - age, education, residing with her in-laws - and that 75 per cent comes from a variety of broad-ranging aspects of gender norms at the household, village, and regional level. Contrary to the assumption often underlying demographic analysis of women's status, I find that those factors which determine a woman's authority within her home do not necessarily determine her mobility in public. Further, characteristics that are often identified as being a catalyst for social change but which are closely related to social class, such as education, may work to reinforce rather than change existing gender norms.

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