Harmful social and cultural practices that exist within South Asian communities in the UK and their impact on women

Ganeshpanchan, Zinthiya and Masson, Isla (2021). Harmful social and cultural practices that exist within South Asian communities in the UK and their impact on women. In: Masson, Isla; Baldwin, Lucy and Booth, Natalie eds. Critical Reflections on Women, Family, Crime and Justice. Bristol: Bristol University Press, pp. 35–56.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.51952/9781447358701.ch003


Since 1947 there has been an influx of South Asian migrants to the UK for different reasons. Some of this has been motivated by a need to escape civil war, to seek better economic opportunities, for marriage or to join family members. According to the 2011 census, South Asians represent the largest minority group in Britain. Many of these migrants have settled in the UK and are contributing to economic, social and political life (Girishkumar, 2014). Despite the apparent assimilation of South Asian migrants into the UK and their relatively large number South Asian women migrants in particular continue to face multiple disadvantages. These disadvantages include language barriers, lack of education, lack of skills, poor quality housing, unemployment (Girishkumar, 2014) and specific forms of violence associated with the various cultural and religious practices that define their identity. (Raj and Silverman, 2002; Anitha, 2008). These increase the gender-based power imbalance, threby reinforcing the patriachal structures of both the host and migrant cultures, which leads to the further marginalisation and victimisation of women (Anitha, 2008; Girishkumar, 2014).

Patriarchy is a system of society in which men hold power and women are largely excluded from it. It is an ideology that is considered to be a major deciding factor when mapping the gender power relations that exist within a society (Anitha, 2008; Girishkumar, 2014). It is suggested that patriarchal structures, combined with other intersecting components such as class, race, culture, religion and family patterns, contribute to the context within which abuse occurs (Gilligan and Akhtar, 2006; Ganeshpanchan, 2017) and oppress women.

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