Census Categories and Gender Construction: Reflections on Indian Censuses

R.B. Bhagat


Gender construction is not only confined to the category of male and female, but also found among the categories like workers and non-workers, rural and urban, migrant and non-migrant and married and unmarried as well. Even in the dichotomous male and female category, the transgender remains a problem in the classification. The transgender category in India is traditionally known as hijras (eunuchs) are not only a biological category but has been an important cultural group with recognized role in birth and marriage ceremonies. The census of India used to classify them as male until 2011 Census when the category of ‘Other’ was introduced. Census provides a wider canvas to look into the process of gender construction that is socially and politico-economically constituted. It is one of the processes through which sex categories are concealed into gender categories. Census tables do not simply present the demographic matrix, but deeply reflect, constitute and sustain gender construction. The paper unravels the underlying basis of gender construction through census categories giving examples from Indian censuses.

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