Patriarchy Take Heed, Even As All Of Us Together Fight Fascism In India

Co-Written by Dr. P. S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal


The time for patriarchy to gracefully let women be is ripe in India right now. Last few months have seen hundreds and thousands of girls and women on the streets protesting for their political rights. Even the corporate press has been forced to report – whatever is apparent to any observer on the streets – that not just hijab/burqa clad women but women from all other communities as well join in the protest. The Prime Minister’s strategy of getting Muslim women rid of triple talak has actually boomeranged. Muslim women now demand their full political and civil rights. They have broken the shackles of their domestic life. We have attended umpteen protests in Delhi at Mandi House, Jantar Mantar Shaheen Bagh, Jamia Milia Islamia, JNU, Delhi  University. The women’s face emerges as the dominant force. What we have observed is:

  • At a Jantar Mantar protest a revolutionary, well meaning male protester but shackled by patriarchal chains said that women have taken a long long time to come centre stage!!!
  • At many of these protests men still raise the lead part of the slogan and rest of the crowd including women complete the slogan. True there are situations where the gender order of sloganeering is seen to be reversed.
  • Speakers tend to be predominantly male.
  • The convenor or the anchor person of the gathering still happens to be a male.

All male activists should introspect on how women have been denied the primary role in any protest action – it has much to do with patriarchy that this came about. Even as we are fighting fascism in India at the moment we should consciously let women be. For a change male activists could learn to listen, be on the periphery for support and solidarity; let women manage the manch (makeshift or otherwise); let women frame the slogans and messages for placards as also press releases. And men should volunteer to go about distributing the same. For decades women have been relegated to do the typing work as men go about dictating press statements, and girls and other lesser mortals had gone about distributing the same to media offices. The time for men in India is ripe to consciously get rid of their patriarchal attitudes even as they join the protesting women in support and solidarity.

There is a lesson or two to be learnt from the planning which went around in organising protest at Shaheen Bagh, Delhi. The educational status of the women did not stand in the way of planning such a mind boggling campaign. Even the religious leaders have been kept on the sidelines. This campaign which has become a movement nation wide has a lot to offer by way of learning – how to harness local resources, local human power; build collective leadership and practise democratic functioning; and let the movement grow organically. All are free to address the gathering but as individuals not representing any political party.

During India’s freedom struggle male leaders in the forefront would more often than not relegate women and their welfarism backstage by saying that these could be looked after the country has achieved freedom. Even in the trade union movement gender issues were subordinated to the more ‘radical’ issues of minimum wage and permanent jobs for male workers – as raising women’s issues could vertically (allegedly) split the movement apart into two. The real struggle against fascism should ensure equality for women and people of alternate sexualities viz LGBTQIA people. The presence of people from sexual minorities in the protest against CAA, NRC, NPR had to be seen to be believed; female commercial sex workers too, articulated their support at Jantar Mantar.

(Dr. P. S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal are members of PIL Watch Group. Email: [email protected])



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