January 21, 2021

Feminism takes timid steps in India | Society

Feminism takes timid steps in India | Society

The second half of 2018 brought a series of achievements for feminism in India, the most dangerous country for women according to a Reuters study. The decriminalization of adultery, which discriminated against women by treating it as the property of their husbands, had a great reception for affecting the majority of the population. However, the rest of the conquests are silenced by the heterogeneity of society and the voice of feminism has little political weight in the electoral race towards the impending general elections, which are also expected at the end of April. With some 1,250 million people (more than 650 million, women), the largest democracy in the world is also one of the most diverse societies from a cultural, religious and linguistic point of view; what for an intersectional movement like the feminist is ground for a greater pluralism but also for a greater division based on the different religious, gender, caste and class identities.

In October, Cyclone #MeToo arrived in India with public accusations in social networks that gave rise to resignations, dismissals and quarrels to men of power in the Bollywood entertainment industry, in the media and even in politics. It appeared a year after its American counterpart, but also 12 months later of the denunciations against the abuses of the Indian elites. "In the academic world the 'brahmanical supremacy' [abusos por parte de las castas altas] It abuses students from lower castes and tribal groups, "explains Raya Sarkar, the university student who prepared a list of about 70 names of professors from well-known universities in the country accused by a hundred students she interviewed. Neither then nor after the #MeToo, the local media echoed the clamor of a sector of the female population doubly mistreated, by its gender and its caste. "They ignored me and attacked me because I am of origin dalit [intocable]. The leaders of the #MeToo were heard because they are of high castes and the urban environment sympathizes with them, "sums up Sarkar, now in the United States.

"There is silence before the atrocities towards untouchable women", confirms Chayanika Shah, founder of the group LABIA (Lesbians and BIsexuals in Action), based in Bombay. Pioneer among lesbians declared as such in India, Shah received with hope the historic decriminalization of homosexual relations. In September, the Supreme Court knocked down a colonial law over 150 years, giving a crucial victory to the LGTBI collective; particularly to more than two million homosexuals, including women, persecuted for their sexual orientation. But little joy lasted, as Parliament passed the Transgender Persons Act in December.

"The law does not allow the self-definition of gender, which depends on doctors and judges. Pursues begging, which is the only way out of trans without employment. And it punishes with penalties of six months to two years of prison every crime against transgender, including rapes, "Shah explains." It is a norm to clean the streets of beggars. It does not offer rights but eliminates them, "the founder continues. She believes that many lesbians and transsexuals do not participate in the feminist movement because they do not feel included.

Legislation regarding women's rights in India experienced great progress at the end of the year thanks to two other sentences, which also showed the division of the feminist movement. In October, The Supreme Court collapsed the principle by which women of age could not enter the temple of Sabarimala, a norm of customs imposed by the Hindu patriarchate. Likewise, the government of India penalized by decree the triple talaq; Muslim practice made standard in India by which husbands incurred express divorces by the mere repetition of that word. In spite of the progressive aspect of both legal modifications, the division between the female collective was evident within the two majority creeds of a country where religious sentiments prevail as much as or more than civil rights. The condemnation of the Islamic custom was criticized by the Muslim women, who thought it convenient that the social practice be corrected by the religious leaders and not judicialized by the government, while the opening of the Hindu temple caused violent demonstrations in which women participated.

Equally decisive for a transversal movement is the inclusion of disability, absent in Indian law according to a Human Rights Watch report. "The disabled are discriminated against because of our disability and because they consider us asexual or hyper sexual. […] This makes us completely invisible, "explains Nidhi Goyal. Co-author of the study, Nidhi confirms the limited presence of her collective in feminist demands, the result of a legal vacuum and social incomprehension. Of the same opinion is Paromita Vohra, founder of Agents of the Ishq [amor en hindi], one of the few Indian groups dedicated to disclosing issues of sex, sexuality and consent through audiovisual projects: "A cultural transition is needed to make feminism popular in India. But there are visible changes, because for years the term patriarchy was almost non-existent when now it can be read and heard in the media. " Also a film director in Bollywood, where the Indian #MeToo emerged, Vohra insists on differentiating part of the whole: "That was not a movement, but part of it. Feminism is and must be much broader and more inclusive. "


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