The economic participation of the women in rural Roodsar in Iran and power within the conjugal relation
This thesis examines female power and autonomy in the Roodsar region of the Iranian province of Gillan. It begins with a critical examination of the "Indian debate", which discusses the phenomenon of women's subordination and their relative welfare in relation to "material" conditions and to aspects of "culture.". The thesis examines patriarchy, Islam, and role of the state, as other possible forces shaping women's lives. The key role of Islam and the association often made between Islam and patriarchy as well as the extent to which the State influences gender relations are the underlying reasons for discussing these forces. Then, drawing on various feminist writings on the nature of intra-household and especially conjugal relations, the thesis begins to examine the area of gender relations. The notions of "autonomy" and "power" are discussed and distinctions are drawn between them. The empirical part is based on an in-depth qualitative investigation of the Roodsar region. A case study was conducted and information was gathered through semi-structured interviews and participant observation. Certain structured questions relating to age, number of children, and ownership patterns were asked in these interviews. To explore gender relations, open-ended questions were used to allow the respondents to elaborate on their responses as they felt necessary. This was done to avoid imposing any category on the respondents. The villages within the region were chosen randomly, while the women who were interviewed in each village were selected based on their willingness to participate. Purposive sampling, therefore, was used to select respondents. The areas being explored, including women's relative control over household resources (cash, labor), their ownership and control of property, their control over their own labor power and body, and their decision-making powers, are examined in the context of the agrarian economy. Background information on the gender relations in this region, mostly consisting of ownership patterns and the division of labor, is given to set the stage for the empirical part of the thesis. A descriptive account is given of these relations at the present time which follows with the analysis. The analysis concludes that any single indicator used to explain women's subordination and their relative power within the household is unlikely to capture the real complexities that characterize gender relations. To understand these relations properly, we have to look at the society as a whole, including prevailing socio-economic and cultural conditions as well as the role of the state in which these relations play a part. There are a web of different factors shaping gender relations, and each of these factors are only a part of that whole.