Home / Sun Devil Shelf Life / Gendered Citizenship
book cover for "Gendered Citizenship"
November 2019
Oxford University Press

College or Unit:

Gendered Citizenship

Understanding Gendered Violence in Democratic India
Natasha Behl

It has been shown time and again that even though all citizens may be accorded equal standing in the constitution of a liberal democracy, such a legal provision hardly guarantees state protections against discrimination and political exclusion. More specifically, why do we find pervasive gender-based discrimination, exclusion, and violence in India when the Indian Constitution supports an inclusive democracy committed to gender and caste equality?

In "Gendered Citizenship," Natasha Behl offers an examination of Indian citizenship that weaves together an analysis of sexual violence law with an in-depth ethnography of the Sikh community to explore the contradictory nature of Indian democracy, which gravely affects its institutions and puts its citizens at risk. Through a situated analysis of citizenship, Behl upends longstanding academic assumptions about democracy, citizenship, religion and gender. This analysis reveals that religious spaces and practices can be sites for renegotiating democratic participation, but also uncovers how some women engage in religious community in unexpected ways to link gender equality and religious freedom as shared goals. "Gendered Citizenship" is a groundbreaking inquiry that explains why the promise of democratic equality remains unrealized, and identifies potential spaces and practices that can create more egalitarian relations.


Natasha Behl is assistant professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Arizona State University. Her research is also published in Feminist Formations, Space and Polity, Politics, Groups, and Identities, Journal of Narrative Politics, and Journal of Punjab Studies. In 2018, she was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Award at Arizona State University.

Praise for this book

In an argument grounded in the lived experience of Sikh women in India, Behl revisits the meaning of citizenship, understanding citizenship as contextual. Her contextual approach bridges empirical and normative theory to take on one of the deepest threats to democracy's paradoxical exclusions, by recognizing the inclusive potential in seemingly undemocratic groups like religious communities. Behl shows what our secular mechanisms for inclusion exclude. Is political science ready for political theory to trouble the boundaries and measurement of its most essential concepts?

Brooke Ackerly
Full Professor, Vanderbilt University

In this insightful work, Behl explores the coexistence of formal equality in India with systemic inequalities grounded in gender, caste, class and religion. By documenting how sexual violence and sexist norms undermine diverse women's participation in public life, "Gendered Citizenship" demonstrates why meaningful democratization requires far more than legal reform, and identifies initiatives that can promote more inclusive modes of public life. Moreover, Behl argues that political science needs a richer conceptualization of power if it is to acknowledge that all citizens matter.

Mary Hawkesworth
Full Professor, Rutgers University