- The question is in the context of contributions made by the contemporary women for the women movements held in demand for equal rights, equity, economic and social empowerment etc. Thus the question becomes important from the point of view of GS paper I.
- The question envisages us to discuss the phenomena of contemporary women-led movements and the factors responsible for it. One has to track development of a number of feminist activities in various parts of the country justifying the contribution of contemporary women crusade in women empowerment.
- Briefly discuss the significance of women empowerment in the intro.
- In the main body, first, explain what exactly constitute women movement?
- Discuss in short how the role of women in Indian society has evolved over the ages.
- Discuss the rise of the feminist movement in India in the 1970s and how women have been empowered through legislation and societal changes.
- Elaborate on different streams of feminist orientations in India – one on aspects of polity, specific movements for social change in order to effect the revolutionary transformation of society, Radical Feminists, development of feminists etc.
- Quote case studies from India.
- Conclude with few of their achievements made in this direction and suggest upon their crucial role.
Women movement can be described as a prolonged and sustained movement which has clear vision, effective leadership, a set of institutionalized roles and organisation for the upliftment of women’s condition in the society. The contemporary women’s movement in India (1975–present) has played an important role in bringing gender issues to the forefront of development planning and defining feminist politics.
Many women’s organizations like the National Federation of Indian Women (1954) the Samajwadi Mahila Sabha (1559) were formed to work for championing the cause of Indian women. By 1970 the political atmosphere began to change in India. Many leading political parties realized the importance of including women in their struggle for realising their objectives. It was partly on compassion and partly for securing their ends that they included women as a vanguard force.
The well-known women’s organisations which were formed during this time are the Stree Mukhti Sangkatana, the Stree Sangharsh and Mahila Dakshata in Delhi. Vimochana in Chennai, Baijja in Maharashtra, Pennurumai in Chennai. The Feminist Network in English and Manushi in Hindi were some of the first women’s newsletters and magazines to appear.
The major demands of the contemporary women movements:
- issues such as child marriage, sex-selective abortions and dowry-related violence.
- Equality not merely for justice but for development
- Focus should be on economic empowerment of women
- Childbearing should be shared as a social responsibility
- Recognition of household work as national productivity
- Marriage and motherhood should not be a disability
- Emancipation of women should be linked to social emancipation
- Special temporary measures for de facto equality.
The famous Chipko movement which was basically an ecology movement created not only a11 awareness among middle class and rural women but also enunciated a new theory that women should be given the right for self- determination. The Chipko movement also picturised women as being an exploited class along with nature, and any violence against nature began to be identified with violence against women.
There were three different streams of feminist orientations:
- The Liberal Stream focuses on demanding reforms in those aspects of the polity which specifically affect women.
- The Leftist Stream situates oppression of women within a holistic analysis of the general structure of oppression and calls for a coming together of specific movements for social change in order to effect the revolutionary transformation of society.
- The Radical Feminists concentrate on defining the development of feminity and masculinity in society as fundamental polarities and experimented with reclaiming traditional sources of women’s strength, creativity, and so on.
The New Delhi gang rape in 2012 has become a landmark in the fight for women’s rights and feminism in India, leading to legislative changes and moving gender to the centre stage of political debates.
Though the Indian women’s movement has achieved much, activists and scholars say that there is still a long way to go. Meanwhile, the women’s movement is grappling with ever-new problems as vast economic and social changes sweep the country while old mindsets steeped in patriarchy still prevail.
In the early 21st century, millennial Indian women launched a radically new kind of feminist politics that had not been seen before. Inspired by a vocabulary of rights and modes of protest used by the youth across the world, such as Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, they initiated a series of social media campaigns against the culture of sexual violence.
The earliest campaigns – the 2003 Blank Noise Project against eve-teasing, the 2009 Pink Chaddi (underwear) movement against moral policing and the 2011 SlutWalk protest against victim-blaming – were limited in their scope but set the tone for this new mode of protest. Campaigns such the 2011 Why Loiter project on women’s right to public spaces, the 2015 Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) movement against sexist curfew rules in student halls and the 2017 Bekhauf Azadi (Freedom without Fear) March resonated with a much larger number of women, turning this social media-led phenomenon into a true feminist movement.
The challenges that the feminist movement now faces stem from the vast diversities within India. Feminism within India is divided along class, caste, sexuality and disability, and as parts of India develop at a faster rate, increased social and economic inequality is giving rise to new problems like sexual harassment at the workplace and in public transport.
As it deals with the new problems, Indian feminism is still battling with many of the old problems. The recent #MeToo campaign shows the changing face of women’s movements in India.