Women’s Struggles & Women’s Movement in India

Abstracts

Three phases of Women’s Movements:19th Century Social Reform Movement, 20th Century Freedom Movement and Women’s Rights Movement in post 1975 period have brought to fore wide range of women’s concerns. There have been various ideological shades in thewomen’s movement. Old women’s organisations have an elitist bias. To them, privileged ‘women from good families’ do some philanthropic, social work activities for common, poor,miserable women. They do not believe in transcending the existing social order. In their personal lives, they abide by the rules of caste system and generally believe in maintaining the status-quo. During last 3 decades, women from marginalized sections-Dalit & tribal,workers and agricultural labourers, poor women in urban and rural areas have mobilised against violence against women in the community and in the family, witch-hunting of female headed households, mass rape of tribal and dalit women, dowry murders and alcoholism. The members of new women’s groups believe in fight against all forms of sexual oppressionand consider women as an oppressed sex. They believe, like casteism and communalism, sexism is also one of the most effective weapons utilised by the ruling class to divide masses. Hence, they believe in fighting against caste system, religious chauvinism and sexism simultaneously. In their personal lives also they practice non-discriminatory attitudes towards people of different religions, castes and classes. They consider that economic independence of women is a minimum necessary condition for women’s liberation but it isnot enough. One has to fight for women’s rights in socio-cultural, educational, political fields to achieve total liberation. Many of those members of women’s rights groups call themselves feminists. They do not like the term ‘social worker’ for themselves. Those who believe that legal reforms can change women’s position are known as liberal feminists. Those who consider men as responsible for the plight of women are known as radical feminists. And those who situate women’s oppression in the overall socio-economic and cultural reality are known as socialist feminists. Socialist feminist believe in establishing linkages between women’s movement and broader socio-political movement by working incollaboration with various types of mass organisations like trade unions, democratic rights organisations and issue-based united fronts. They think that women’s demands have to be fought on a day to day basis. Then only new ethos, new ideologies, new morality and new egalitarian relations between men and women can be evolved.

 Introduction

In the 19th century, the male social reformers with the blessing of the British administrators, influenced by western liberal democratic values initiated the process of fight against female infanticide, widow-burning, segregation of women from the public life, prostitution and begging by the destitute women. They also organised public functions for widow-remarriages. As a result, their relatives, neighbours, community leaders and the organised religion boycotted them. In a way, it was a blessing in disguise because their isolation from petty politics gave them ampletime and resources to interact with the power-structures to bring about legal reforms and establish educational institutions, shelter homes, training centers for women from where the first generation of teachers, nurses, skilled workers came out.

Enormous amount of literature of that time, produced by the Indian social reformers in Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali bears witness to their path-breaking efforts. The first generation of English educated empowered women became pioneers of the women’s movement in the pre-independence period. Most of them channelised their energies in building pioneer women’sorganisations such as All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) and Anjuman-e-Islam. The political agenda of AIWC was to fight against child marriage, mobilise public opinion in favour of voting rights for women, impart basic skills (such as tailoring, embroidery, cookery, hair-style, childcare, folk and classical music and dance,letter-writing etc) to women to become efficient home-makers. Cultural ambiance of AIWC suited the needs and aspirations of the high caste Hindu women. For all practical purpose, YWCA was multireligious in terms of its areas of activities and beneficiaries, though its decision-makers happened to be the Christian wives of politicians, bureaucrats, professionals and managerial cadre who were in the close proximity of the British rulers. YWCA provided vocational training courses to groom nurses, typists, secretaries and teachers, classes in bakery products, flower arrangements, Western and Indian classical dance and music classes. Anjuman Trust was committed to the cause of women’s education and skill formation, which would enable them to be home-based workers. They had to work within the matrix of purdah. YWCA women had to face outside world with nominal male protection. AIWC women had their male family members as facilitators. Women leaders from Anjuman Trust interacted only with the Muslim community. Differences in eating habits, dress-code and language barriers prevented them from collaborative ventures though their leadership was from the economically better-off section.

Non-violent means of protest actions under the leadership of Gandhiji, ensured massive participation of women in the national liberation movement. Women family members of the Congress leaders gave up purdah participated in public functions, rallies, demonstrations and experienced prison-life. Families, which allowed women to take political risks, emerged as powerful politicians. Some of the highly educated women joined educational institutions, diplomatic crew, public service boards, public and private sector industries. The rest became enlightened home-makers with a strong commitment for their daughters’ education.

 Women’s Liberation Movement of the Seventies

Genesis of the new women’s liberation movement lay in the radicalization of Indian politics inthe late sixties. Rebellious mood of the youth, poor peasants, marginal farmers, educated dalit and tribal men and women, industrial working classes found its expression in the formation of innumerable special interest groups addressing themselves to the needs and demands of the local masses. Macro political processes were also finding major shifts in their rhetorics as the protest movements of the subaltern masses had taken militant paths guided by different political ideologies. The official communist parties faced major political challenge in the form of the Naxalbari movememt in Kerala, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab. Middle class mass upheaval in Gujarat (popularly known as Navnirman movement) against corruption, price rise, unemployment, speculation, hoarding and black-marketing in 1974 was replicated in Bihar in the name of Sampoorna Kranti Movement under the leadership of a Gandhian leader, JayPrakash Narayan. Unprecedented strike of the railway workers gave a proof of the political power of collective strength of the working class. Tribal people’s struggles against destructive development which served the interests of the kulaks, moneylenders, contractors, bootlegger sand indigenous industrialists thriving on the barbaric means of surplus extraction developed in Chhatisgarh, Singhbhoom, Bhojpur, Srikatulam, Chandrapur, Dhulia and in the pockets of the North Eastern states.

In response to the 1974 drought paralysing normal agricultural activities,the tribal masses in Dhule region of Maharashtra demanded Employment Guarantee Scheme. This historic demand has revolutionised the thinking of the development workers about responsibility of the state at the time of economic crisis. (Patel 1985) In the Himalayan valleys, under the leadership of Gandhian community workers the struggle against arbitrary felling of the trees which led to deforestation and massive scarcity of fuel, fodder, water and seasonal fruits, landslides devastating villages after villages began. Women evolved creative method to protect the trees from the axes of contractors’ henchmen. This movement was popularly known as Chipko because women hugged the trees when their adversaries made ferocious efforts at felling the trees.

In Maharashtra, women activists and women intellectuals involved in progressive movements took initiative in forming a united front called Anti-price rise Women’s Committee and organised direct action against the culprits whocreated man-made scarcity of essential goods. Thousands of poor and lower middle class women joined the struggle under the leadership of seasoned and able women from the left and socialist background. Mrinal Gore, Ahalya Ranganekar, Manju Gandhi and Tara Reddy made their special mark in the eyes of the masses as a result of their unique ability to reach out to the women of different class backgrounds. Their intellectual self-sufficiency, ability to relate micro issues to macro political reality, simple lifestyle and non-bossy nature provided role models to the younger generation of women’s liberation activists of all political hues.

Around the same time a conference of Women’s Liberation Movement Coordination Committee was organised in Pune. This had even larger socio-political and cultural base as right from young educated women, professionals, writers, teachers, industrial working class women, unorganised sector women workers, temple prostitutes and tribal women participated in the deliberations and highlighted their demands. Stree Mukti Sangathana in Bombay and Progressive Organisation of Women in Hyderabad were formed in 1974. In Delhi, new leadership among women evolved from the radical students’ movement and the democratic rights movement. Individual women in different political groupings all over India were feeling discontented about patriarchal biases in their organisations but they came out openly against it only after the emergency rule got over. These were independent, self-determining and democratic movements, which questioned all hierarchical structures. In India, young people of that period had not participated in the dreams of the nationalist movement. Faced with multiple crises – economic, social and political, along with corruption, drought, inflation, unemployment, pauperization of the rural poor – the disenchanted youth responded with protest.

Widespread, open discontent was expressed in action and consolidation of the action developed into powerful organisations throughout the country. These movements raised a number of diverse issues-land-rights, wages, employment, security at work-place, water availability, destruction of nature, oppression and exploitation of the Dalits (the untouchables) and the working masses. Many women participated in these struggles with enthusiasm, responsibility and creativity (Patel, 2002). The UN Declaration of 1975 as an International Women’s Year coincided with the Emergency Rule in India. By the time the Emergency was lifted in 1977, several women’s groups had developed around democratic rights issues. The press swung into “action” after the imposed silence of nearly two years. Atrocities committed against women during the Emergency were openly documented and reported in the press. These atrocities struck a chord in most women’s own experience of life in the family, in the streets, in the workplace and in political groups.

The culmination of this process was reached in 1980 when many women’s groups took to the street to protest. During the 1980s, the issue of women’s oppression was depicted not only in discussion forums, seminars and `serious’ articles but also in the popular media. Women, who had on their own identified the sources of their problems and indignity, began to acquire a language, an organisational platform, a collective identity and legitimacy they did not have earlier.

The Status of Women’s Committee appointed by GOI released a voluminous report in 1974. This report called Towards Equality was prepared by the scholars with an interdisciplinary perspective and was presented in the Parliament of India, where it received a tremendous response from the decision-making bodies, the state apparatus and the print media. Shocking description of Indian women’s reality, which manifested in declining sex ratio, very high rate of female mortality and morbidity, marginalisation of women in the economy and discriminatory personal laws were some of the major highlights of the report. But the report failed to throw anylight on violence against women in the civil society and by the custodians of law and order. Major achievement of the report lay in the policy decision taken by the principal research bodylike the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) i.e. to provide financial support to scholars committed to the women’s cause, to conduct research into problems faced by women in poverty groups.

Between 1977 and 1979 new women’s groups emerged in the cities like Delhi, Banglore, Hyderabad, Bombay, Ahmedabad, Patna, and Madras. They organised protest actions against dowry murders, beauty contests, sexist portrayal of women in media, pornographic films and literature imported from abroad, introduction of virginity tests by the U.K. immigration authorities, custodial rape and pitiable condition of women in prison. These groups were multicultural in their composition and worldview. As a result, their political agenda reflected the contemporaneous handling of the complex reality of women constructed by interplay of class, caste, religion, ethnicity and globalisation. (Melkote & Tharu, 1980). The spokesperson of these groups had an advantage of high level of ideological investment and the experience of the radical movements of the late sixties. Their collective wisdom provided main backbone to the movement. Their newsletters, magazines and booklets in regional languages as well as in English provided creative way of handling Indian women’s problems.

Launching of MANUSHI in January 1979 was a qualitative leap in this direction. The need to study women’s issues in academic institutions and to conduct research based on experiential material and affirmative action was beginning to be discussed among Indian women’s studies scholars by the early eighties. The discourse on this subject has proved to be a fruitful exercise for activists, academics, researchers, policy planners and the UN system. The apex body of higher learning, University Grants Commission defined WOMEN’S STUDIES as a discipline that involved research, documentation, teaching, training and action. It is understood that women have subordinate status in our society so the knowledge base created by WS should be used for empowerment of women (Patel, 2009).

 Dialogue Between WS and WM

It was in the early 1980s that women’s studies’ centres, functioning autonomously or within the university system, started accepting empirical and experiential evidence from the women’s movement. It was a time when participatory research, action research and subaltern studies were gaining ground in the field of social sciences as well as among the social work institutions and NGOs focussing on specialised fields. This process indirectly facilitated the interaction of WS and the WM. Wide range of issues concerning women were extensively discussed with tremendous technical details in the first National conference on perspective for women’sliberation movement in India in December 1980. In terms of alternative cultural inputs, this conference was a trendsetter. Songs, music ballets, skits, jokes, vocabulary, plural lifestyles and Multilingual dialogues this conference was a trend setter. The conference made it possible for women from totally divergent political moorings to come together for democratic discourse. Four months later, in the first National Conference of Women’s Studies in April, 1981 at SNDT Women’s University, a wide variety of issues were discussed by activists, researchers, academicians, administrators and policy makers. These included the developmental process which bypassed women, the gender bias in textbooks, sexism in the media, gender blindness in science and technology, health needs of women and violence against women – rape, domestic violence and prostitution.

The general consensus among the participants (both women and men) was that WS was pro-women and not neutral. It was seen that WS would build a knowledge base for empowering women by pressing for change at policy level and in curriculum development, by criticising gender-blindness as well as gender-bias within mainstream academia, by creating alternative analytical tools and visions and by advocacy for women’s developmental needs in the economy and in society. This Conference established a new trend by which, gradually, women activists were invited, as resource persons and participants, to academic seminars, consultations and training workshops.

Participatory Technique

Participatory technique is more used in training development personnel and organising awareness programmes. Action being an important constituent of WS, this technique is used to conduct researches on the existing movements and developmental projects. Those who have been working with women at grass-roots have felt the need of using various techniques to break the silence of women, to get their participation and eventually generate a climate of equality. The hiatus between the trainer and the trainee needs to be obliterated; the gap between producer of knowledge and user of knowledge has to be removed (Rebello, 1982).

In WS, we have been saying that women’s voices have to be heard; how they perceive dowry or violent situations are very crucial. While studying objective reality and micro forces, WS also examines subjective reactions, psycho related issues. To understand social oppression, personal involvement provides a deeper understanding of the problem. Hence WS recognizes the role of personal accounts in highlighting the dynamics of women’s oppression in situations like draught, communal riots, caste riots, Bhopal gas tragedy, appropriate technology, family planning programmes, fuel, fodder, water management, income generation activities and developmental policies.

 Research and Action

During the International decade of women by the UN (1975-1985) for quite some time researches on women and action on women were moving parallel. After the eighties, the chasm between the researcher and the activist sharpened, as funds started pouring into women’s research. Many women activists worked for the established research institutions on a subcontract and freelance basis for below subsistence wages because the funding was used mainly for institution building and for the perks of the decision-makers of the institutions. The government through its ministries, such as Labour, Rural Development and Social Welfare and the UN system sponsored studies initially for the academics, which might have resulted into a hierarchical situation. Simultaneously with the growth of grassroots work and autonomous women’s groups organising campaigns and lobbying for political action, a necessity to study the problem with participatory perspective arose. Foreign funders started supporting such actions or activists resulted in debates, whether one should take foreign fund or not? It was believed to have implications of unequal power dimensions, apart from the fact that research priorities might be determined by the funders.

Another dimension of this issue is concerning role of the researcher. If women’s studies is both understanding and action, then commitment to social change is essential. Women’s oppressive reality has not to be merely studied in a classroom but has to be eliminated. The logic of adopting innovative techniques like life history, autobiography, experiential data provides self-awareness and motivation for change (Gotoskar,1982). Articulation of one’s experiences in terms of oppression or growing identity on the onehand indicates a changed situation wherein a woman is able to frankly and honestly express her inner turbulations and a critique of the most private relationship. On the other hand this realisation, some day, ought to lead to action for changing this relationship. It could come more rapidly if there is support available through the women’s movement.

Of course, there are levels and levels of action, but activity and empathy are of prime significance in women’s studies. As a result of the collective endeavour of women’s studies scholars and the women activists, two important documents providing insights into enormity of Indian women’s problems have come into existance. They are: SHRAM SHAKTI Report focussing on poor self employed women and women in the unorganised sector and National Perspective Plan for Women (1988-2000A.D.).These documents provide political agenda for the mainstream political bodies and the women’sorganisations.

 Methods of Functioning of the NEW Women’s Groups

Most of the women who took initiative in formation of the new women’s groups were extremely averse to authoritarian structures within the family, educational and religious institutions and society at large as all of them did not allow women critical thinking and a space to grow as independent, cerebral and politically conscious human beings. Hence they were very clear in their approach that they would encourage each and every member of the group to articulate her thoughts and establish intimate working relationship based on the collective decision-making processes.

Initially this method proved very effective in creating new cadre of women who were intellectually enlightened, politically articulate, well informed and supportive to each other within their small groups as there were no male political bosses to curb their initiative and make them rot only in routine activities of fund-raising, translating, typing, posting, cleaning and cooking for the members of their political groups. Such groups in Madras, Banglore, Hyderabad, Bombay, Pune and Delhi brought out documents, position papers, manifestoes, pamphlets and reproduced whole lot of documents of the women’s liberation movements in the other countries containing debates which had direct bearing on our situation. They had tremendous urge to reachout to more and more like-minded women. Their meetings were throbbing with new ideas, powerful polemics on epistemological issues, at the same time they reflected deep concern for immediate problems of women.

As they believed that women’s issues needed to be taken up on a day-to-day basis and patriarchal power needed to be challenged in both ’personal’ and ’political’ spheres of life. They simultaneously started support work to individual women, solidarity work for the mass movements and united front work on an issue to issue basis. But, at the same time, maintaining their own political autonomy and organisational identity. These groups kept in touch with each other by circulating their leaflets in English and regional languages, mimeographed documents and letters. They functioned purely on an informal basis and organised meetings in the homes of one of the members or sympathizers. Between 1977 and 1980, only in Maharashtra, a new culture of exclusively women’s workshops, women’s conferences and women’s gatherings, in which women of politically diverse views were invited, was found. As these gatherings were multi-class and multi-caste (within the matrix of Brahminical Hinduism), women pursuing different occupations – right from agricultural labourers, beedi workers, industrial working class women, students, teachers, journalists, writers, researchers, white collar employees – shared their experiences and put forward their demands.

 Proliferation of the Autonomous Women’s groups

Nationwide anti-rape campaign in 1980 resulted into emergence and proliferation of the autonomous women’s organisations in several cities and towns of India. These groups such as Forum Against Oppression of Women (Mumbai), Saheli (Delhi), Stree Shakti Sangathana (Hyderabad), Vimochana (Banglore) managed to get tremendous publicity in the print as well as the audio-visual media because at that time ’violence against women’ was the most sensational and the newest issue. Family members, especially fathers and brothers of the women victims of violence flooded the women’s groups. Later on, the women victims started approaching these groups on their own. While doing agitational and propaganda work against series of rape cases in custodial situation, domestic violence and dowry harassment, these groups realised that to work on a sustained basis and to take care of there habilitative aspects of violence against women, it was important to evolve institutional structures for support to the women victims of violence based on feminist principles of solidarity (mutual counseling) and sisterhood.

Criminal legal system in India made it inevitable for these groups to establish rapport with the police for an immediate redressal to the women victims of violence. Condition of women in the remand homes and the Nari Niketans were so repugnant and barbaric that they could not be trusted for women’s rehabilitation. In fact, many women who suffered at their hands approached the new women’s groups. The women activists had to deal with the attitude of victim-baiting and double standards of sexual morality, sexist remarks, sick humour from the staff of the police, the legal apparatus and the public hospitals. At each and every step, they encountered class, caste and communal biases. (Lalitha, 1980). These resulted into confrontation between the women’s groups and the established institutions. But in course of time, they realised that it was necessary to suggest concrete alternatives in terms of legal reforms, method of interventions and the staff-training for attitudinal changes. For public education, literature written in convincing style was a must. Audio-visual material for reaching out to more and more people was necessary. Professional bodies and educational institutions were approaching these groups for understanding the women’s question.

In these context SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS focusing on agit-prop, media-monitoring, resource material for consciousness raising, creation of cultural alternatives, publications, research and documentation, bookstalls, legal aid work came into existence during the eighties and got consolidated in the 1990s. These groups played complementary roles in each other’s development, though the process was not so smooth.

 Issues Taken up by the New Women’s Groups

a. Campaign against Violence against Women

The movement got momentum with the campaign against the Supreme Court of India’s judgement against Mathura, a teenage tribal girl who was gang-raped by the policemen at the dead of night, in the police station in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra in 1972. After 8 years of legal battle in the Session’s Court, the High Court and the Supreme Court by her sympathetic lawyer Ad. Vasudha Dhagamwar, Mathura lost everything – her status, her self-esteem and her credibility –, the Court declared that Mathura was not raped by the men in uniform but Mathura being a woman of ‘an easy virtue’ gave a willful consent for sexual intercourse. Vasudha and her three colleagues in the legal profession wrote an open letter challenging the Supreme Court’s verdict in an extremely poignant and logically convincing style. This letter was widely publicized in the print media.

Two major points concerning this issue were: Reopening of the Mathura Rape Case and amendments in the Rape Laws that put burden of proof on women and had a narrow definition of rape. Around these demands, the women’s groups were formed. They collected signatures on their petitions, conducted study-circles where experienced lawyers spoke, organised rallies, sit-ins, demonstrations in front of the offices of the concerned authorities, prepared poster exhibitions, plays, skits, songs, slogans against violence against women, wrote letters to the editors of different news-papers, wrote articles in newspapers and magazines for the first time on women’s problems. (FAOW, 1985) Initially they concentrated on the women-specific issues such as wife-battery and dowry-murders, rape and eve-teasing, pornographic films, plays and literature on harassment of womenat the work place. Militant actions, social boycott, gherao of tormentors, raiding of the matrimonial homes for retrieval of dowry had to be resorted to because of antipathy/lethargy of the state apparatus.

From these experiences of direct action the activists of the women’s groupsgot to know the power relations operating within modern families (working class, middle class and upper class), different religious communities and various caste organisations. (Patel, 1985)

b. Fight Against Unjust Family Laws

While providing support to women facing problems concerning marriage, divorce, maintenance, alimony, property rights, custody of child/children and guardianship rights, the activists realised that the existing personal laws and most of the customary laws were discriminating against women. Hindu daughters were deprived of coparcenary rights in parental property as per the codes of Mitakshara.

Christian women could not get divorce on the ground of husband’s adultery; it had to be coupled with cruelty, bestiality and sodomy. While Christian husbands could just declare their wives as adulteresses and divorce them. These antiquated laws were enacted in the colonial period to serve the interests of the British bureaucrats who had their legally wedded wives in England and were cohabiting with the Indian (in their language ’native’) women. Parsee daughters who married non-Parsee men lost their property rights and non-Parsee wives of Parsee husbands got only half the shares in husband’s property as per the Parsee Personal Law. Shariat Law subjugated Muslim women by imposing purdah, allowing polygamy and unilateral divorce by men to his wife/wives and by depriving divorced Muslim women of maintenance rights.

Underlying philosophy of all these personal laws was that: women are not equal to men. They are governed by the patriarchal ideology. Irrespective of their religious backgrounds, these personal laws perpetuate patrilineage, patrilocality, double standard of sexual morality for men and women and perceive women as dependent on men. Individual women from different communities have challenged the constitutional validity of discriminatory aspects of the personal laws in the Supreme Court of India. Increasing number of educated working women and housewives from all religious backgrounds have been approaching secular women’s organisations. Main problems faced by them from their natal families have been forcible marriage, murderous attacks in cases of inter-caste, inter-class and inter-religious marriages, property disputes, incest and from their husbands and in-laws have been adultery, bigamy, polygamy, divorce, custody of child/children, property, incest etc.

As the issue of personal laws is intertwined with the religious identities, the secular women’s movement had to face tremendous hostility from the elities of the different communities, mass organisations, patriarchal secular lobby and the parliamentary parties cashing on block-votes. Individual women (divorced, deserted, single and married under duress) are questioning discrimination in the customary laws. Tribal women in Maharashtra and Bihar have filed petitions demanding landrights in the Supreme Court of India. Several women’s groups (Saheli, Delhi, Vimochana, Banglore and Forum against Oppression of Women, Mumbai) and human rights lawyers’ team (The Lawyers Collective, Mumbai and Indian Social Institute, Delhi) have prepared drafts containing technical detail of gender just and secular family laws. (D’ mello, 1982).

c. Legislative Reforms:Laws Concerning VAWG

India was the 1st to enact the Family Courts Act (1984). Domestic Violence Bill (2002) to be tabled soon for deliberations in the Parliament of India. Women’s movement has pushed for legislation to provide protection for abused women. There is a need for broadening the definition of domestic violence to include violence against women senior citizens (abuse of “mentally unfit” certificate), incest & rape by family members and relatives forcing women & girls into prostitution.

From the very beginning of the women’s movement legal reforms has been the top most priority. Women’s organizations campaigned for reforms in the rape law (1980) and dowry prohibition Act. For thirty years, campaign demanding Protection of Women from Domestic Violence resulted in an Act in 2005. Similarly struggle against pre birth elimination of girls resulted (Patel1988) in inactions of the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Technique Act (2002), Public Interest Litigations to deal with sexual harassment at work place filed by the NGOs resulted into Supreme Court Directive for Prevention of Sexual Harassment At workplace, 1997. We need common legislation for the region to deal with cross-country trafficking of women and girls for sex-trade and organ transplant. Many cases of VAW also get resolved in the neighbourhood committee, communityorganisations and lok adalats (People’s Court).

Women’s movement has emphasized that violence against women is a manifestation of unequal power-relation between men and women. If women are empowered by the community and official support, we can tilt the balance infavour gender justice.

d. Reproductive Rights of Women

When it comes to reproductive rights of women, most of the efforts of the women’s groups in India have been directed against excesses committed in the name of family planning programmes. Now, Indian Council of Medical Research, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Institute of Research in Reproduction (IRR) has shown readiness to discuss scientific, medicolegal and operational dimensions of bio-medical researches conducted on human subjects. UNFPA (1998) and WHO have drawn guidelines about population policies that its focus shifts from targeting women for population control to women’s reproductive rights. Ethical guidelines for bio-medical research are drawn. Still in the interior parts of India, poor women have been the main targets of the abusive sterilization operations and unsafe injectable and oral contraceptives. Recent researches on adolescent girls and abortion have highlighted the problem of teenage pregnancies, trafficking of young girls for sex trades and complicity of the criminal justice system.

Campaign against sex determination resulted into central legislation banning amniocentesis, chrion-villai-biopsy and sex pre-selection techniques for femicide. But, much is needed to be done to make the legislation effective in the real life. CEHAT and the Lawyers Collective have jointly supported a petition (Public interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India) filed by Dr. Sabu George for effective implementation of the Act (Patel, 2009).

d. Anti Arrack/alcohol Movement

Since mid seventies, tribal women in different parts of country – Andra Pradesh, Manipur, Maharashtra have been fighting against alcohol/lecre sale inducing alcoholism among men resulting into devastation of families and domestic violence against women and children. In Andhra Pradesh, the anti-arrack movement was strong in 1992 to 93 and it spread into other states at different levels. More than 40,000 women uniting and blocking the arrack auction in Andhra was a historic chapter in the Indian women’s movement.In Maharashtra, the elected women representatives in local self government institutions, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) have forced the state government to declare their block/village/taluk ‘alcohol free zone’ if 50% of women in the area give their vote against sale and distribution of alcohol.

e. Women’s Movement and Peace Initiatives

The most important contribution of the women’s movement has been its commitment for peace-initiatives in the disturbed areas torn by communal conflicts, ethnic tensions and mob violence. Media publicity on this issue is extremely important so that such work can be replicated in the places where such groups don’t exist. During communal riots in 1992 and 2002 in Gujarat, women’s movement played pivotal role in proving support to the victims of violence and also took up campaign against xenophobia and jingoism.

 Women’s Movement and the Development Agenda

During 1970s and 1980s, the women’s movement highlighted marginalisation of women from the economy. The efforts of women activists were directed in agitation and propaganda for women’s rights, street-fighting against escalating violence against assertive women and team-building to counter sexual harassment at work-place. In the 1990, the women’s movement is demanding its legitimate place within the mainstream with its own agenda of empowerment of women with partnership with men. It has been able to identify its allies in all sections of society. Its horizontal and vertical networking has created congenial atmosphere to execute development agenda with the help of effective use of information technology, communication channels, modern managerial practices, efficient law and order machinery.

The most difficult areas have been providing educational opportunities for the poverty groups, dalit and tribal women, low-cost housing, environmental and occupational safety and human rights concerns. The state, political parties and beneficiaries of women’s groups too have duty to ensure democratic and multicultural atmosphere within which the women activists can take judicious and gender-just decisions about allocation of developmental resources and development funding for construction of schools, community centres, sports-clubs, libraries and reading rooms, low cost hospitals and low costhousing for the poverty groups. Gender Budgeting as a tool is used by elected womenrepresentatives to promote gender equality.

Dr. Vibhuti Patel, DIRECTOR, P.G.S. R.Professor and Head, Post Graduate Department of Economics,SNDT Women’s University,Smt. Nathibai Thakersey Road, Churchgate, Mumbai-400020Tel

List of References

Forum Against Oppression of Women, Report of the National Conference on Perspective for Women’s Liberation Movement in India, 1985.

Flavia D’mello, “Our Fight Against Wife-beating, HOW, Vol. 5, No. 9&10, November, 1982, pp.19-22.

Lalitha, K, “Rape – A Case Study of Rameeza Bee” Stree Shakti Sangathana, Paper presented at the National Conference on Perspective for women’s liberation Movement in India, hosted by Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay, 1980.

Rama Melkote and Suzie Tharu, “Patriarchal Relations in Working Women’s Hostels: Implications for Women’s Movement”, Paper presented at the National Conference on Perspective for Women’s Liberation Movement in India, hosted by Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay, November, 1980.

Sujata Gotoskar, “Grassroots Experiences of Organising Working Class Women”, HOW, Vol.5, No. 1, pp.11-14, January-February, 1982.

Shaila Rebello, “A Survey of Wife-beating in Kanara”, Institute of Social Research and Education, Bombay, 1982.

UNFPA, Summary Report of Consultations to Assess Implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, National Consultation, 27th to 29th October 1998, Goa.

Vibhuti Patel, “Women’s Liberation in India”, New Left Review, No. 153, August 1985, London, pp. 75-86.

Vibhuti Patel, Sex Determination and Sex Preselection Tests: Abuse of AdvancedTechnologies”, in Rehana Ghadiali (ed), Women and Society in India, Sage Publications, Bombay, 1988. pp.178-185.

Vibhuti Patel, “Shah Bano Controversy and the Challenges Faced by Women’s Movement in India”, in Asghar Ali Engineer (ed), Problems of Muslim Women in India, Orient Longman, India, 1995, pp.140- 148.

Vibhuti Patel, Women’s Challenges of the New Millennium, Gyan Publications, Delhi, 2002.

Vibhuti Patel (Ed.), Discourse on Women and Empowerment, The women Press, Delhi, 2009.