Caste matters: perceived discrimination among women in rural India

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2018 Apr;21(2):163-170. doi: 10.1007/s00737-017-0790-1. Epub 2017 Oct 15.


The aim of this study is to examine the relationship of caste and class with perceived discrimination among pregnant women from rural western India. A cross-sectional survey was administered to 170 pregnant women in rural Gujarat, India, who were enrolled in a longitudinal cohort study. The Everyday Discrimination Scale and the Experiences of Discrimination questionnaires were used to assess perceived discrimination and response to discrimination. Based on self-report caste, women were classified into three categories with increasing historical disadvantage: General, Other Backward Castes (OBC), and Scheduled Caste or Tribes (SC/ST). Socioeconomic class was determined using the standardized Kuppuswamy scale. Regression models for count and binomial data were used to examine association of caste and class with experience of discrimination and response to discrimination. Sixty-eight percent of women experienced discrimination. After adjusting for confounders, there was a consistent trend and association of discrimination with caste but not class. In comparison to General Caste, lower caste (OBC, SC/ST) women were more likely to (1) experience discrimination (OBC OR: 2.2, SC/ST: 4.1; p trend: 0.01); (2) have a greater perceived discrimination score (OBC IRR: 1.3, SC/ST: 1.5; p trend: 0.07); (3) accept discrimination (OBC OR: 6.4, SC/ST: 7.6; p trend: < 0.01); and (4) keep to herself about discrimination (OBC OR: 2.7, SC/ST: 3.6; p trend: 0.04). The differential experience of discrimination by lower caste pregnant women in comparison to upper caste pregnant women and their response to such experiences highlight the importance of studying discrimination to understand the root causes of existing caste-based disparities.

Keywords: Caste; India; Perceived discrimination; Rural; Social justice; Socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pregnancy
  • Prejudice / psychology*
  • Prejudice / statistics & numerical data
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult