Marginality is an experience that affects millions of people throughout the world. People who are marginalized have relatively little control over their lives, and the resources available to them. This results in making them handicapped in delving contribution to society. A vicious circle is set up whereby their lack of positive and supportive relationships means that they are prevented from participating in local life, which in turn leads to further isolation. This has a tremendous impact on the development of human beings.

What is Marginalization?

Marginalization is when an individual or group is put into a position of less power or isolation within society because of discrimination. When an individual is marginalized, they are unable to access the same services and resources as other people and it becomes very difficult to have a voice in society.

It deprives a large majority of people across the globe from participating in the development. It is a complex problem, and there are many factors that cause marginalization. This complex and serious problem needs to be addressed at the policy level.

Meaning of Marginalization

In general, the term ‘marginalization’ describes the obvious actions or tendencies of human societies, where people who they perceive to undesirable or without useful function, are excluded, i.e., marginalized. These people, who are marginalized, from a GROUP or COMMUNITY are known as ‘marginalized groups’. This limits their opportunities and means for survival.

The Encyclopedia of Public Health defines marginalized groups as, “To be marginalized is to be placed in the margins, and thus excluded from the privilege and power found at the center”. Latin observes that ‘Marginality’ is so thoroughly demeaning, for economic well-being, for human dignity, as well as for physical security. Marginal groups can always be identified by members of dominant society, and will face irrevocable discrimination.

Characteristics of Marginalized Groups

Usually, a minority group has the following characteristics :

  • It suffers from discrimination and subordination
  • They have physical and/or cultural traits that set them apart, and which are disapproved of, by a dominant group
  • They share a sense of collective identity and common burdens
  • They have shared social rules about who belongs, and who does not
  • They have a tendency to marry within the group

Various Marginalized Groups and their Problems

1. Women

Under different economic conditions, and under the influence of specific historical, cultural, legal and religious factors, marginalization is one of the manifestations of gender inequality. Gender-based violence and domestic violence is high among women in general in India. Girl child and women from the marginalized groups are more vulnerable to violence. The dropout and illiteracy rates among them are high. Early marriage, trafficking, forced prostitution and other forms of exploitation are also reportedly high among them. In situations of caste conflict, women from marginalized groups face sexual violence from men of upper caste i.e., rape and other forms of mental torture and humiliation.

2. People with Disabilities

People with disabilities have had to battle against centuries of biased assumptions, harmful stereotypes, and irrational fears. The stigmatization of disability resulted in the social and economic marginalization of generations with disabilities, and, like many other oppressed minorities, this has left people with disabilities in a severe state of impoverishment for centuries. The proportion of the disabled population in India is about 21.9 million.

3. Scheduled Caste

The caste system is a strictly hierarchical social system based on underlying notions of purity and pollution. Brahmins are on the top of the hierarchy and Shudras or Dalits constitute the bottom of the hierarchy. The marginalization of Dalits influences all spheres of their life, violating basic human rights such as civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. A major proportion of the lower castes and Dalits are still dependent on others for their livelihood. Dalits do not refer to caste but suggest a group who are in a state of oppression, social disability and who are helpless and poor. Literacy rates among Dalits are very low. They have meagre purchasing power and have poor housing conditions as well as have low access to resources and entitlements.

4. Scheduled Tribes

They constitute a large proportion of agricultural laborers, casual laborers, plantation laborers, industrial laborers etc. This has resulted in poverty among them, low levels of education, poor health and reduced access to healthcare services. They belong to the poorest strata of the society and have severe health problems.

5. Elderly or Aged People

Lack of economic dependence has an impact on their access to food, clothing, and healthcare. Among the basic needs of the elderly, medicine features as the highest unmet need. Healthcare of the elderly is a major concern for society as aging is often accompanied by multiple illnesses and physical ailments.

6. Sexual Minorities

Due to the dominance of heteronomous sexual relations as the only form of normal acceptable relations within the society, individuals who are identified as having same-sex sexual preferences are ridiculed and ostracized by their own family and are left with very limited support structures and networks of community that provide the conditions of care and support. Their needs and concerns are excluded from various health policies and programs.

7. Patients of Communicable Diseases

Those living with HIV/AIDS, mental illness and disability are more venerable among others. These groups face severe forms of discrimination that denies them access to treatment and prevents them from achieving a better health status.

8. Children

Children Mortality and illness among children are caused and compounded by poverty, their sex and caste position in society. All these have consequences on their nutrition intake, access to healthcare, environment, and education. Poverty has a direct impact on the mortality and morbidity among children. In India, a girl child faces discrimination and differential access to nutritious food and gender-based violence is evident from the falling sex ratio and the use of technologies to eliminate the girl child.

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