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Hasmita Ramji

Subject Sociology » Sociology of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, Stratification and Inequality

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Purdah literally translated from its Persian origins means veil or curtain. It is a concept that is used as a synonym for social practices that isolate or separate different groups in society. Although purdah can refer to many different social practices of isolation, the term is most immediately associated with a practice of gender segregation in mostly although not exclusively Muslim societies. There are various forms and degrees of purdah that may be observed in Islamic societies. Purdah, for instance, can refer to the use of high walls, curtains, and screens erected within the home as well as public places to keep women separate from men or strangers. However, the most widespread practice of purdah refers to the seclusion of women from public observation by wearing concealing clothing. This form of purdah is also seen in other religions such as Christianity and Judaism – it is not unknown for certain Christian and Jewish denominations to require women to be “covered” whilst worshipping (if only by a hat or similar symbolic object). The practice in Islam is traced to both the Qur'an and the Hadith. The usual garment worn to accomplish this form of purdah in Islamic societies is termed a chador (all-enveloping black mantle), which may or may not include a veil to conceal the face, a yashmak (De Souza 2004). The limits imposed by this practice vary according to different countries. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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