Gender, Everyday Resistance and Bodily Integrity: Women’s Lives on Delhi Streets

Deborah K. Padgett, Prachi Priyam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite a dramatic increase in homelessness globally, little attention has been paid to the effects of gender and other identities on unsheltered women’s lives in non-Western contexts. Like their housed counterparts, homeless women in India live with gender norms such as female modesty, marriage, motherhood, and economic dependence. This ethnographic study focused on the lives and surrounding environment of 10 women sleeping rough in Delhi, India. The primary goal was to explore how they enact or subvert gender norms in maintaining bodily integrity and autonomy and the influence of intersectional identities in mediating such enactments. Findings show that allegiances to marriage and motherhood are moderated by exigency. Acts of “everyday resistance,” including sexual freedom, mobility, self-sufficiency, and self-defense, brought negative and positive consequences. Intersections of religion or caste with gender were less salient, thus underscoring the influence of gender. Similarities and differences are noted in comparing their experiences to those of other homeless women globally. Implications for social work practice include greater attention to gender and other structural barriers while working with homeless women seeking to rebuild their lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-185
Number of pages16
JournalAffilia - Journal of Women and Social Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • India
  • gender
  • homeless

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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