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Earlier to the mid-nineteenth century, the government influenced the powers delegated and was quite opaque and transgressing towards the rights of women. Only when the men began to speak up against the evil, oppressing practices to be followed by the women of India, like “Sati”, started the First-wave of The Feminist Movement in India. It was later joined by the women. It focused on abortion of evil practices in the name of caste and religion, forbiddance of child marriage and reduction of illiteracy. The Second-wave began in 1915, which involved the emergence of many independent women’s organizations during the Quit India Movement. The Third-wave of Feminism began post-Independence and focused on the fair treatment of women at home after marriage, in the workforce and right to political parity. And not to repudiate that a lot has changed and improved since its inception, still as we move closer to India’s 73 rd Independence this year on the August 15th – I have realized that the women in India have not yet completely achieved the objective and must introspect and re-asses its goals as we enter a new epoch and while we await the fourth-wave.

The wave of Feminism-21 st Century

The achievements of the movement are undeniably immense. Merriam-Webster’s Word of the year 2017 was ‘feminism’, increased by 70% compared to 2016. The meaning and quality of the term have been evolving compared to the 1990s. Many political campaigns and protests have been held over the years and are still vibrant. Starting from the Blank Noise Project (2003)- against eve-teasing, the Pink Chaddi (2009)- underwear movement against moral policing, Slutwalk (2011)- against victim-blaming; the rage was fueled further when the fatal assault of a 23-year old girl in South Delhi, known as the Nirbhaya Rape Case took place and then led to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013.

The recent- legally two more incidents which have proven significant for feminism are the “Triple Talaq” and the “Sabarimala verdict” wherein the former was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court against patriarchy masquerading as religion and the latter hailed victory against gender-discrimination which was restricting the women to shrine. The second wave of #MeTooMovement shook India as the women voiced the sexual harassment that they had to face, forced by the men in power both in the workplace and elsewhere. Many predators faced consequences for their behavior. Closer home, the women in Kerala won their right to sit and work; whereas, earlier they were not even allowed for nature’s call during the long working hours. The women won en masse when the 12% GST on Sanitary Napkins was dropped and made tax-exempt; thus, allowing each and every woman the right and access to the necessary hygiene, irrespective of status or religion.

Multi-Layered Struggle

Although there have been many achievements on the part of women, the feminist movement is quite a multi-layered struggle. Though women of India realized that seeking Gender equality, Right to equal wages, Equal political rights and raising a voice against the patriarchal culture were the few injustices worth struggling for, yet there are many layers still waiting to be unraveled. The whole significance of the movement is quite vivacious and complex at the same time. It is said- “Human Issues are Feminist Issues, Feminist Issues should be Human Issues too.” So, if we expand the understanding of what should constitute as “feminist issues” apart from including freedom of choice, consent, bodily autonomy, and sexual freedom, we must combine freedom of sexual oppression with freedom from Caste, Ethnic and Religion oppression. It should broaden its horizons and take a graceful shift from the existing void towards the redistribution of efforts and power in equal shares among all of the aforementioned factors.

Fight against Systems of Oppression

Kyriarchy is a social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression, and submission. It keeps all the intersecting oppressions in place. Therefore, the fight should not be just against patriarchal culture, it should be against all systems of oppression. Indian feminism should move from only representing the concerns of the upper caste women and start representing the interests and concerns of Indian women as a whole. Marxists and socialist feminists too have pointed out the systemic and structural inequalities are among the many factors that are disadvantageous to the women. Ignorance towards the oppressive systems by one makes one an oppressor- which is completely un-feminist. Also, it is rightly said- “A woman is not free until each and every woman is- even if her shackles are very different and diverse.

The Battle is far from Over The recent refusal by the Supreme Court to recognize “Marital Rape”- proved to be a setback for the movement, making India one of the 36 countries that still haven’t criminalized the same. Also, The Right to Abortion after 20 weeks in cases of risks to the health of a woman is still an area of improvement considering the difficult and tedious norms set by the Supreme Court. Besides the already discussed issues that are relevant to the movement, one more issue that the feminists of India needs to address and soon is- Feminism in India is deeply misunderstood by both women and men. It is high time we realized that there is a difference between feminism and pseudo-feminism. The ubiquity of this problem is another barrier as there are many women out there calling themselves feminists and arguing for laws which will favor them but in turn be discriminatory among men. Hence, the whole concept of feminism which is- Equality, gets lost.

Taking the leaf from history and encapsulating the essence, The Feminist Movement is expected to represent impressive levels of inclusivity and maturity and be self-effacing. And we hope it saves the world from reducing to fragments and rubble.

Sunny Rajak is a management student who wants to contribute to the cause of such marginalized communities in Indian society.


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