According to Raymond W. Murry (1946), ‘’social stratification is a horizontal division of society into ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ social units.’’ Social stratification refers to a society’s categorization of its people into groups based on socioeconomic factors like wealth, income, race, education, ethnicity, gender, occupation and social status.
Social Stratification in Nepal
Nepal is officially the federal democratic republic country located in South Asia and is also one of our neighbouring country. Hinduism is the dominant religion in Nepal and Nepali is the official language. The Nepalese caste system was the traditional system of social stratification of Nepal. The Nepalese caste system broadly borrows the classical Hindu model consisting of four broad social classes mainly the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. The caste system defines social classes by a number of hierarchical endogamous groups often termed jaat. This custom was traditionally only prevalent in the Hindu -Aryan societies of the Khas, Madhesi, and Newars. If high caste boy marry low class girl his caste level would decrease and society treats him low.
However, since the unification of Nepal in the 18th century, Nepal’s various non –Hindu native nationalities and tribes, formerly called “Matwalis’’ (alcohol-drinkers) and now termed as Adivasi (indigenous/nationalities), have been united within the caste hierarchy the pyramid to varying grades of success. Despite the forceful combination by the state into the pan-Hindu social structure, the traditionally non-Hindu groups and societies do not necessarily follow the customs and practices nkof the caste system.
The caste system is still unbroken today but the rules are not as rigid as they were in the past. In 1962, a law was passed mainly to stop the discrimination against different castes and to treat all cast equally. Education is provided free and open to all castes. The caste system comprises of structural class in which lower caste/ethnicities are socio-economically not equivalent like those of higher castes/ethnicities. Recent research has also shown that when it comes to Nepali, people’s impression of social change, “Poverty, Human Resource and Region’’ explain more of the variation than ‘caste, ethnicity or religious belonging.’ Therefore people’s insight of their own social condition has more to do with objective social class, than with association with caste. People are classified based on their wealth by society and people mostly focus on how to earn wealth and to get richer.
After take-over of the Nepali monarchy following the federal republic, ethnicity and caste have taken interior step. The native people (Adivasi Janajati) who make up a third of the country having been guaranteed rights that have not been fulfilled. There is an observable reaction to this among certain Khas Brahmin and Chhetri groups, seeking to prevent group-based rights from becoming an important factor in the country that earlier had a political system associated with group discrimination. Certain outside experts have suggested that seeking a balance in the approach requires addressing both detailed native historical injustices while creating a common citizenship for all the citizens regardless of identity, which remains a particularly challenging issue for Nepal.
In Nepal, gender inequality is another stratification which creates disparities and inequalities between men and women. Nepal is a patriarchal society and on almost every measure, women are worse off than men. The Nepalese believes that men are always superior over women. Women and girls in Nepal are deprived by traditional practices like the dowry system, early marriage, son –preference, stigmatization of widows, isolating women (purdah), family violence, polygamy, and the segregation of women and girls during menstruation (Chhaupadi). In recent years, there have been changes to improve the situation faced by women and girls.
In Nepal a high-caste, educated women may have lower opportunities to work outside the home than a rural woman for whom working outside the home may be more accepted. Girls have the responsibility of helping their mothers with housework while men and boys are generally not expected as they are seen as the future family breadwinner while daughters leave home to line with their in-laws. They thinks daughter is meant for other and son is to look after his parents.
Almost half of the population gets married between the age of 14 to 19 years and dowry is a major driver of child marriage as well as a cause of violence against girls and women. Marriage plays a deciding role in all women’s life choices and social-economic position. As women get older, their gender roles change especially if they become the mother -in law who is more able to make decisions and likely to have more freedoms than her daughter-in –law. Prior to crisis widows were harassed and blamed for their husbands deaths, they are seen as burden on her family – particularly in rural areas. Although there has been improvement in women’s overall status including increases in the literacy rate and opportunities for them to work. Recently many things have changed as of caste system and gender inequality. Women are given their voice of right. But the discrimination that exist before is not totally abolished but diminishing slowly.
Social stratification in Bhutan
In the Bhutanese society social stratification in past has been defined as both patriarchal and matriarchal and the member with the highest respect served as the family’s head. Bhutan has been designated as feudalistic and characterized by the absence of strong social stratification. In pre-modern eras, there were three broad classes mainly the monastic community, the leadership of which was the nobility, lay civil servants who ran the government structure; and farmers, the largest class, living in self-sufficient society. In the more militaristic pre-modern era, Bhutan also had an underclass of criminals of war and their offspring, who were generally treated as serfs or slaves.
In contemporary spells, the society is structured with joint family entities, and a class division existed based on occupation and, in time, social status. With the introduction of foreign practice in recent countries and increasing job flexibility outside the village, joint family practice is diminishing. A system of titles, depending on age, degree of familiarity, and social or official status, indicates ranks and relationship among members of society. With the position different people have different respect and recognition.
When it comes to social status based on ranking and authority in the country is indicated by the ornamental details and colour of the dress and quality of the clothes used. The scarf worn by both men and women symbolize the status one holds. Yellow scarf is worn by His Majesty and Je Khenpo, orange by Prime Minister, red my lamas and monks, green by Drangpon and white by lay men like us.
Social status is based on family’s economic position. Except among the Hindu Lhotshampa in southern Bhutan some of communities still follows caste system. Although Bhutanese were endogamous by tradition, modern practices encouraged ethnic combination in late twentieth century. Right of inheritance traditionally exist, although in some central areas the eldest daughter was the legal successor. In contemporary Bhutan, however inheritance came to be more equally distributed among all children of a family. Except the royal, Lotshampa and a few other noble families have surname whereas other do not have.
When comes to ethnicity in Bhutan there are numerous ethnic groups in Bhutan, and no one group constitutes as majority of Bhutanese population. The Bhutanese are of four main ethnic groups, which are Ngalop, Sharchop, Lhotshampa and Bhutanese tribal and aboriginal peoples living in villages scattered throughout Bhutan. In the past elders restricted to marry different ethnics and they did not like each other because different people used to talk different language. And were self-sufficient in their own community. But with the change of period of time and peoples thinking, all citizen started socializing with one another and recently have started to get married with one another.
And to talk about caste system, like in Nepal, Lhotshampa in southern Bhutan practice the caste system. Lhotshampa does not allows low caste people to enter their house and don’t drink water too if they happen to touch it. If children happened to marry low caste (Kami, Rasaily, Darjee and Dami) they will be considered death and are not allowed to live in that particular community. To marry own caste is very important that if not many discrimination arises. Few decades before gender inequality existed in caste system of Hinduism. Girls were treated very lowly and not given any opportunity rather than being a house wife. Boys were the supreme leader of the house to make the decision. But today, this system is fading and everyone is given equal opportunity in the community. And in near future I think it will not exist because society give more focus to wealth rather than caste. Caste system is not a pieces of cake which we can change overnight. So it will take time to change to have equality in the society in regards of caste.
Lastly, caste and gender inequality is not a big problem this days. Bhutanese focus on the wealth that one can earn in the society. Mainly focuses on economic status where wealth is distributed among society. There is no such division as ‘haves and haves not’ in Bhutanese society and wealth is divided equally and everyone has the opportunities to get richer. Once one get richer he will be recognized in the society. There is no restriction in the society that will held one back from earning wealth.