HomeMiscellaneousFeminism and the Women's Rights Debate - International Women's Day 2021

Feminism and the Women’s Rights Debate – International Women’s Day 2021

With women rising to claim their rights, modern India has witnessed a revolutionary impact on the age old societal structure. Post  Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization era and in our fight against the deadly pandemic, India emerged as one of the greatest world leaders- a status which would have been impossible to achieve without women leading at the forefront with men. This can perhaps be attributed to many factors, of which the leading factor is the rise of the feminism movement in India. 

However,  even after such ideologies have come to light, the Indian society is still struggling to be at par with women demanding equal rights and shattering even the subtlest form of patriarchy that surrounds them. Where women with privileged homes are able to raise their voices against the injustices, the crimes against women in most rural and township areas are on a constant rise. How far have we come and more importantly how many roadblocks do we have to conquer till we achieve an equal status for all the women in this holy land of Goddesses?

To begin with, we first need to understand the core of what Feminism means. For a beginner, feminism can be described as a movement to give equal rights to women in society. The necessity for such a movement became substantially palpable during the late 19th century and the early 20th Century in the west. The motive was to give women equal rights in parenting, contracting and acquiring property. Feminist movements have occurred in waves, and perhaps what we are witnessing now is the Third and Fourth wave of feminism happening simultaneously, aimed at providing equal rights to women in their workplace, irrespective of their race and religion. Another major goal of this wave is to give women a safe space to talk about their experiences of being harassed, as well as recognizing the LGBTQ community. The beauty of this wave lies in it being majorly ‘Technology Driven’, where the efforts are multiplied with magnificent power that the internet holds.

- Advertisement -

Before we move to our main topic of contention, it becomes a necessity to understand what feminism has been able to provide our women with.

Successes of Feminism:

Modern feminism in India has managed to educate a majority of the urban youth today regarding giving equal rights to women at their workspace, and essentially “sensitize” people about gender and sexuality. Another big achievement in this domain was to spread awareness regarding the members of the LGBTQ community, and how it is necessary to change a person’s outlook towards these people, in order to progress collectively towards a better society. Today, people are able to empathise with people from the LGBTQ community because of the tireless collective efforts of these feminists, who have done a commendable job by the way!

To a large degree, urban women have been benefitted by the feminist movement as they are now being seen as equivalents to men in all spectrums of urban Indian society, not to forget the voices of LGBTQ being amplified so that they too, can get an equal opportunity to be represented in the society. 

But as we know, there are two sides to a coin…

To start off with, the drawbacks are present in the very place they’re strong at: Urban India. While all the major feminist movements aim revolve around two focal points- freedom of choice and equal participation and representation, several movements have sparked controversies, as they go against the Indian culture. Movements such as “FreeTheNipple”, have received negative responses from the rather conservative Indian society.

Another big failure to the feminism movement in India is their concentration ‘only’ towards the upper class society of the urban parts, and not the women of rural India, who tend to suffer and struggle more. While every major political campaign sees countless ‘urban’ women voicing their opinions, the same cannot be observed in the rural setup, where women are still bound by patriarchal norms and rituals. This again raises a question: What reforms have the feminist movement promised and inculcated for the rural women of India? 

Here we need to carefully distinguish between what feminism means at the core and how pseudo feminism is used to a certain group’s advantage.  

Limited access to education emerges to be the biggest hurdle for rural women. Even if the change is being brought about at a slow, but gradual pace, it shows that change will take longer than expected to happen. The urban elites have also proclaimed that due to the current men-centric mentality that runs deeper that it is seen on the surface, the impact of the feministic mindset has been slower on the minority communities in India.

All the above matters, when put together, indicate that although actual feminism is thriving at a slower rate than expected, pseudo feminists selectively target the privileged section and use their voice in turning things in their favor.

Crimes against Women:

Even after massive campaigns on Social media, the number of crimes against women have not reduced. Incidents such the ones in Delhi from 2012, and Hathras in 2020, still send chills down our spines. What has made people insensitive towards such incidents? As per the statistics provided on the NITI AYOG website, 1 in every 3 married women in India have experienced ‘Spousal  Violence’. The sex ratio in India is around 898 girl child born for every 1000 boy child births, with the average in 2 states particularly going to rates as low as 866 female child births for every 1000 male child births. Several independent sources also cite that, of the total number of violence and harassment cases that happen, only 20% have been recorded at the law enforcement agencies, while the remaining 80% don’t register at all. Such cases give us a reality check of the amount of work that still need to be done to save those innocent girls.

Another huge controversy, which the feminists have become a part of, is the term “feminazi”. Several videos put out by social media influencers, who claim to be feminists, have portrayed open dissent towards males. One such controversial video shows a famous YouTuber talk ill about the opposite gender. The fact here is that these people are the ones who influence the mindset of today’s youth. When such arguments are ingrained into young minds, they end up becoming irrational thinkers, and as the saying goes, actions are a reflection of one’s ethical/moral stance. This itself proves that such influencers have hidden agendas, apart from the good they claim to convey. 

Feminism is about equality and not about establishing women superior to men.

So how can one solve these major societal issues for women?

Matriarchy is not the solution! The change needs to start from our houses. The problem lies with the way children are parented. Gender sensitivity needs to be taught in households from childhood itself. Another big issue in modern society is the content which young folks consume as they grow up, and by content I mean information, entertainment and opinions. A big issue here, especially in India, is the rise of objectifying women in mainstream entertainment media. This has to be stopped at the earliest. This portrayal of women in such a derogatory manner, and portraying men as well in a certain manner, leads to stereotyping at a societal level. This should probably support the question of why OTTs should be regulated by the Government. 

For the rural parts of India however, a different approach needs to be taken. The power there is dominated by one segment of the society. In such a case, the Ministry of Women and Child Development should interfere to ensure that such archaic restrictions laid down on women be reduced gradually. It is still possible that these women, who are deprived of, in severe cases, even their basic rights, get a path to follow and make their lives better. Supporting the women of today is necessary for the healthy growth of our nation tomorrow, as the saying goes “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family (nation)”.