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Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci first coined the term “hegemony” and also elaborated on cultural hegemony. It is a common perception that cultural powers and organisations are hegemonic-centred, resulting in a network of invisible powers. Hegemonic power processes are an integral part of daily social and cultural practices that help to perpetuate power relations. The repercussions of hegemony can be seen in various aspects of society, such as caste, class, ethnicity, occupation, gender, tradition, etc. This paper enlightens on the gendered hegemonic cultural practice of prostitution (sex work) as a traditional institution in the Bedia community. The intensive fieldwork in Habla hamlet, a sub-village of Luhari village (village assembly) of the Bedia community in Sagar district in Madhya Pradesh, India, was conducted to reveal the hegemonic practices in the community. Forty people aged between 50 to 60 years have been interviewed for this study. Twenty females and twenty males were selected for data collection, and observations had been made in the hamlet to understand hegemony through social institutions.
Moreover, we have found that the male members are alert to the preservation of the purity and chastity of their wives but compelled their sisters and daughters, with the support of social institutions, to remain unmarried and take up prostitution (sex work). In particular, Bedias' hegemonic traditional cultural behaviour plays an essential role in the continuation of discrimination against Bedia women. Additionally, we explore the mechanism of this hegemonic power through the role of gender, patriarchy, false consciousness, emotions, power of common sense, ideology, and history, which have been responsible for the victimisation of Bedia women for a long time.
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