Welcome to the second installment in the ongoing Local Diversity and Inclusion Spotlight series. In these blog posts, we’ll be exploring how various countries around the world address diversity and inclusion in their culture and workplace.
Our newest spotlight country? India, the most populous democracy in the world – and a country that celebrates its Independence Day on August 15 every year.
Here are five things to know about diversity and inclusion in India.
Note: Information is excerpted from the GlobeSmart Culture Guides.
India has traditionally fostered a male-dominant society, but attitudes are starting to shift.
The status of women in India within the family, extended family, society, and the workplace varies significantly between rural and urban areas (often influenced by the level of education).
Indian people are culturally separated from one another by language more than by any other factor.
India is one of the world’s most linguistically diverse nations, with 22 official languages along with English as an important associate language recognized by the Indian Constitution. Add to these more than 300 less widely spoken languages and thousands of dialects, and it is easy to understand why people from one part of the country can have difficulty communicating with those in other regions.
Each of the country’s 29 states has adopted one or two of the 22 official languages for state business, yet several languages could still be spoken in any state. India’s linguistic barriers are compounded by the fact that each language also has a unique written form, with an alphabet that is unrecognizable to someone who does not know that particular language.
India’s caste system is divided society into four main varnas, or groups.
It is impossible to talk about India without mentioning caste, a social kinship-based system that has been continuously evolving over many centuries. Rooted in the Indian civilization, the history of the varna, or caste system, dates back more than 3,000 years. It was originally conceived as a division of labor based on ability and included four main varnas, or groups: Brahmin (priests, teachers), Kshatriya (warriors, rulers), Vaishya (traders, farmers, artisans), and Shudra (menial workers, servants).
India has incredible religious diversity, but the majority is Hindu; other religious groups include Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Zoroastrians.
Almost every world religion is represented in India. Its oldest religion, Hinduism, is practiced by 79.8% of the population. Other primary religious groups are Muslims (14.2%), Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.7%), Buddhists (0.7%), Jains (0.4%), and others (0.9%), including Zoroastrians.
Himachal Pradesh, north of India’s capital city of Delhi, is overwhelmingly Hindu. Just to the north of Himachal Pradesh is the predominantly Muslim Jammu and Kashmir, where border disputes between India and neighboring Pakistan have long simmered. The state of Punjab, to the west, on the other hand, has a majority of Sikhs.
Although homosexuality is no longer illegal in India, societal attitudes generally remain conservative, and many LGBT people choose to keep their sexual identities and preferences private.
The subject is, to a large extent, still taboo among many Indians. Younger people may be more open, but the older generation may not have been exposed to these concepts. In some cases, strong family expectations lead to “forced marriages.”
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