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Social Exclusion

Social exclusion refers to ways in which individuals may become cut off from full involvement in the wider society. It focuses attention on a broad range of factors that prevent individuals or groups from having opportunities open to the majority of the population.

In order to live full and active life individuals must not only be able to feed, clothe and house themselves but should also have access to essential goods and services such as education, health, transportation, insurance, social security, banking and even access to the police or judiciary.

Social exclusion is not accidental but systematic –it is result of structural features of society. The social exclusion is involuntary –that is exclusion is practiced regardless of the wishes of those who are excluded. For example rich people are never found sleeping on the pavements or under bridges like thousands of homeless poor people in cities and towns. This does not mean that the rich are being excluded from access to pavements and park benches because they could certainly gain access if they wanted to but they choose not to. Social exclusion is sometimes wrongly justified by the same logic –it is said that the excluded group itself does not wish to participate. The truth of such an argument is not obvious when exclusion is preventing access to something desirable. Prolonged experience of discriminatory or insulting behaviour often produces a reaction on the part of the excluded who then stop trying for inclusion. For example upper caste Hindu communities have often denied entry into temples for the lower castes and specially the dalits.After decades of such treatment the Dalits may build their own temple or convert to another religion like Buddhism, Christianity or Islam.

After they do this they may no longer desire to be included in the Hindu temple or religious events. But this does not mean that social exclusion is not being practiced. The point is that the exclusion occurs regardless of the wishes of the excluded. India like most societies has been marked by acute practices of social discrimination and exclusion. At different periods of history protest movements arose against caste, gender and religious discrimination. Yet prejudices remain and often new ones emerge. Thus legislation alone is unable to transform society or produce lasting social change. A constant social campaign to change awareness and sensitivity is required to break them.