AskDefine | Define purdah

Dictionary Definition

purdah

Noun

1 a state of social isolation [syn: solitude]
2 the traditional Hindu or Muslim system of keeping women secluded [syn: sex segregation]
3 a screen used in India to separate women from men or strangers

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

From / पर्दा / parda < parde "curtain".

Noun

purdah
  1. the state or system of social gender seclusion
  2. a screen used to conceal and divide women from men and strangers in Hindu or Muslim traditions
  3. a striped cotton clothwhich is used to make curtains
  4. (UK politics) the time between the announcement and holding of an election, during which any governmental activities that may be construed as potentially benefiting or promoting a specific political party or prospective candidate are halted or suspended
  5. (UK politics) the period after plans have been prepared but before the Chancellor of the Exchequer's annual budget is announced, when he refrains from discussing any matters which have relevance to the forthcoming budget

Extensive Definition

This article is about the practice of preventing men from seeing women. See also Budget purdah.
Purdah or Pardaa (Persian: پرده, Urdu: پردہ, Hindi: पर्दा, literally meaning "curtain") is the practice of preventing men from seeing women. This takes two forms: physical segregation of the sexes, and the requirement for women to cover their bodies and conceal their form. Purdah exists in various forms in the Islamic world and among Hindu women in a few parts of India.
Physical segregation within a building can be done with walls, curtains, and screens. A woman's withdrawal into purdah restricts her personal, social and economic activities outside her home. The usual purdah garment worn is a burqa, which may or may not include a yashmak, a veil to conceal the face. The eyes may or may not be exposed.
Purdah was rigorously observed under the Taliban in Afghanistan, where women had to observe complete purdah at all times when they were in public. Only close male family members and other women were allowed to see them out of purdah. In other societies, purdah is often only practised during certain times of religious significance.
In historically Islamic Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, purdah is a custom with cultural rather than religious basis. Even in the United Arab Emirates, where women can wear skirts and similar modest garments, Arab women often observe purdah. It is important to differentiate between purdah and hijab. Hijab is an Islamic tradition that is based on physical and psychological morality, while purdah does not necessarily conform to Islamic teachings.
Criticism of purdah has occurred historically. Purdah was criticised from within its community, for example in the 1905 story entitled The Sultana's Dream, by Bengali feminist Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain. Bhimrao Ambedkar, a social reformer and the chief architect of the Constitution of India, imputed many evils existing among the Muslims of British India to the purdah system of purdah in his 1946 book Pakistan, or The Partition of India, saying that women lack "mental nourishment" by being isolated and that purdah harms the sexual morals of society as a whole.
purdah in German: Parda
purdah in French: Purdah
purdah in Hindi: पर्दा प्रथा
purdah in Italian: Purdah
purdah in Hungarian: Purdah
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