It’s a bit strange when big shot academicians say women’s movements in India have done very little to address economic questions of ‘the other sex’ and go on further stating that the only achievement of feminist movements is that they have pressurized for social change through framing of laws like Sexual Harassment at Work-place, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence or the ongoing movement against Triple Talaq and entry in religious places etc. etc. The given critique of feminist movements in India restricts the social, culture or say ‘sexual’ space as their only sphere of influence.For that matter even in the given critique, the struggle against Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Kashmir and Manipur by women including the participation of Irom Sharmila and fight of Soni Sori, Dayamani Barla against corporate and Indian state’s hand in hand oppression is not included at all. Mum! about it.
According to men of papers, the women movements have undertaken the struggle without addressing structural economic questions. I can be wrong, but I feel it is misplaced judgement, starting from the struggle of beedi workers in 80s, Chipko Movement in 70s, (we only know two names- Sundarlal Bahuguna and Chandi Prasad Bhatt, nothing against them, but those are just two men in the movement of hundreds of women), creation of Mahila SEWA Bank 1974 (10 years before Yunus Khan thought about smaller credit -unfortunately called micro-finance loans, which apparently are given at skyrocketing rate of interests from the grants Mr. Khan received from aid agencies) to recent policies for domestic workers, Street Vendors law and wastepickers inclusion in Solid Waste Management Rules, women were and are in the center stage of the struggle, tragedy is that the understanding of these initiatives is made gender neutral by the men of words. All these struggles are exemplary example of the fact that women’s movements have pursued for ownership of means of production and incrementally worked towards greater economic equality, which is a distant goal but not unreachable.
Sadly, female academicians too fail to recognize the same, and rarely talk about it. One reason of it can be is that these struggles were and are waded by women who don’t necessarily speak English and also at times are not ‘literate’ thus their feminism not worth discussion in academic spaces. This post by no means demeans of what has been achieved in the form of laws penalizing violence against women and push for social equality, instead it rather adds that there is more to the story of feminist movements in India, not visible to English Speaking Male Dominated Academia.