CHANGING FACE OF FEMINISM

Author: - Gauri Pandey

College: BVDU New Law College, Pune



INTRODUCTION-

When we as intellectual individuals of an educated society talk about Feminism, what instills do we take into consideration? Is it the right to vote, the right to equality, the right to representation, or the right to equal wages? Interestingly, this topic is as hot for debate as controversial it is. Let’s get onto this in the later part of the article and begin with a simple definition of what Feminism means in the dictionary of a Layman.

Feminism is not a tangible asset or something which you can own rather it is a thought process that allows people to acknowledge women as a community of individuals who stand strong in parity with the male section of the society. It includes in itself all the social reforms, movements, and ideologies that strive to give equal status to women in terms of political, economic, personal, and social regards. The concept picturizes a female as an individual irrespective of the sex group she belongs to when opening doors of opportunities for the community as a whole. This might sound a bit crazy to a certain section of people as the paradigms mentioned above are the basic rights given to a citizen by any country. However, this is not the case for women. The reality has always been different for females even after 74 glorious years of Indian independence. It was a challenge for Raja Ram Mohan Roy back then when he raged a war against the most brutal practice of women suppression, Sati, and is still a dire task for all those modern-day females who are battling hard to survive in the patriarchal setup we are living.

Roy’s tireless efforts compelled the government to draft a law named Sati Abolition Act[1] to end the practice forever. This encouraged many revolutionaries to come forward and stand against the inhuman treatment given to women. The struggle was then, the struggle is now. The only difference being the nature of issues and the level of oppression being inflicted upon the females. The constant struggle of strong will-minded people, growing understanding about the importance of education, the uprising of women in different aspects, and development are some of the most important forces that shaped the ground for females.

India, though being a patriarchal society has seen some of the biggest revolutions which changed the scenarios for women significantly. Where some of them challenged the age-long prejudiced practices like Sati and Jauhar others helped women in accepting themselves as powerful resources. In recent times, India has evolved as a constant supporter of women empowerment and its efforts have been acknowledged on a global scale.

Amid all this, it won’t be wrong to say that India as a country has seen different phases of feminism and has undergone a change with every changing notion over all these years. Today, when we talk about feminism, we relate to the problems faced by the modern class of women that is educated, informed, strong, and have a clear mind about what she wants. She strives to achieve success by showing her potential in multiple domains which were earlier confined to males only. Talking about some of the landmark decisions that helped in transforming the face of Indian women have been listed below. Have a look:

The Milestone Changes That Defined True Feminism in India

Triple Talaq- The decision that rendered to the cries of Muslim women

One of the biggest challenges faced by Muslim women was Triple Talaq. The practice gave the ultimate right to Muslim men to divorce a woman just by saying the word Talaq three times without following any regulatory mechanism for the purpose. For time unknown, the ladies of the mentioned community were bereft of their rights after the so-called talaq by her husband. However, recently the Supreme Court of India paid heed to the case and gave Triple Talaq an illegal status. [2]The decision was welcomed by women of all communities as it helped to strengthen their position in society.

Women-oriented Schemes by the NaMo Government

  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme

The Narendra Modi led government has taken an array of strong decisions to support the women's welfare and empowerment ideas. The first step to make an individual realize his/her worth is to educate him/her.

“The content of a book holds the power of education and it is with this power that we can shape our future and change lives”- Malala Yousafzai. The young reformist was brave enough to risk her life to promote education amongst the young girls of her country. Education has always been the driving force that has helped society to evolve and flourish on economic, social, and global parlance.

They say that when we educate a woman, we lay the foundation of a strong family. Our government took a major step in this regard by launching the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ initiative which aimed to create awareness and effectiveness of welfare services focused on girls in the country. Launched in 2015, the nationwide scheme was a pivotal step to improve the low child sex ratio in India. A chain of supporting initiatives was run to uplift the position of girls in the society who are often regarded as a burden in the family.

  • PM Ujjwala Yojana- A tribute to the Indian home-maker

The ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana’ launched by the government was another milestone achievement of the government for women empowerment. It was focused on the safety of the women who spent hours inhaling the harmful fumes of burning coal. It aims at providing clean fuel -LPG to women so that they don’t have to compromise their health in the smoky kitchen or wander in an unsafe area to collect firewood. Under this scheme 5 crores, LPG connections will be provided to BPL families in the next three years.[3]

  • Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana- The face of the Modern Indian Women

The scheme was designed to encourage females to step into the world of business at the comfort of their expertise. It provided loans to women, to promote women entrepreneurship in the country. Aspiring female entrepreneurs can avail funds up to Rs. 10 lakhs to start a small or micro-enterprise.[4]

These popular schemes started by the Central Government can be seen as the powerful steps towards strengthening feminism in the state. An array of other initiatives, apart from those mentioned above have been launched by the state as well as the central government that has touched the core issues faced by women and helped in resolving those drastically.


Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013- A decision against the most inhuman crime

In one of its historic judgement, the Supreme Court of India introduced an amendment in the Criminal Law Act 2013. It was framed to punish sex crimes, redefine rape, and make punishments more stringent, and make death for repeat rape offenders. The amendment was added after the most horrid rape instance of all times, the Nirbhaya rape case of Delhi.[5] As a noble move, the government created a fund named the Nirbhaya Fund which allowed state governments to use the pooled money in ensuring the safety of women in public places. The amendment was a crucial step in safeguarding the security of women in the country.

Women Officers on Board- A challenge to the male-dominated sector

Today we see women leading all the spheres of life and work with their sheer dedication, capability, strength, intelligence, and competence. They are not only fulfilling their duties as a home-maker but are also exploring new heights for their careers and businesses. The unmatched power and resilience of a woman have been acknowledged by one and all and so they have been trusted upon with the top-most positions and responsibilities of work. Not just private institutions, females are heading towards grabbing a rank in the Indian forces as well.

A recent judgement by the honorable Supreme Court of India allowed the Short Service Commission women officers to hold permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their service years.[6] This decision of SC was in response to the Union Government’s plea that addressed females as physiologically weaker than men and broke the sex stereotype stopping women from showing their potential as active serviceperson for the nation. As an iconic moment for the growth of feminism in India, Tanya Shergill became the first woman Army officer to lead the men contingent as they march past at the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.[7]

The Sabrimala Case- A decision that removed the prejudice on gender-based religion

In September 2019, the apex institution of law, SC relieved the centuries-old ban on the visit of women and girls between 10 to 50 years of age in Sabrimala temple of Kerala. The decision was given against the provision of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965. The decision allowed women of all age groups to enter the temple giving a new definition to the religious rights of a person irrespective of his/her gender. The court in a 4:1 majority decision stated that the practice was hindering the rights of Hindu women as such practices widen the gap of gender discrimination in the country. Chaired by the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in a five-judge bench quoted that the practice violated the rights of Hindu women to practice their religion and preach their beliefs. [8]

Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005- The Judgement to Acknowledge Daughters


As a strong step to promote feminism, the Supreme Court of India gave judgement concerning the position of a daughter as per the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005. The provisions contained in Section 6 of the Act presents a daughter with the status of a coparcener before or after the amendment similar to the rights and liabilities bestowed upon to the sons up until now. While pronouncing the judgement Justice Arun Misra stated “Daughters must be given equal rights as sons, daughter remains a loving daughter throughout life. The daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout life, irrespective of whether her father is alive or not.” [9]

Periods- When the Indian Prime Minister broke the age-old taboo

One of the biggest taboos associated with females is ‘Periods.’ The word which describes the identity of a woman is quite conveniently used to suppress her and allot her a substandard status in the society we live in. Girls are told not to speak openly about their problems related to menstruation with their family members or even doctors. The ignorance and limited access to sanitary pads expose them to a plethora of diseases that put their lives in the problem. There is an urgent need to break these shackles surrounding periods. Recently, our honorable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi came out of the set protocol and spoke about menstruation and sanitary pads during his speech on 74th Independence Day. He spoke about women empowerment and women's health and revealed that his government made sanitary pads accessible for poor ladies at the minimum cost of one rupee through various Jan Aushadhi Kendras.

Conclusion

Feminism is digging its roots in the minds of people in India and the world. It is growing slowly just like a child who begins his journey from cradling on foot to walking on his legs. Not just men but women too have started realizing their potential in various domains. Where earlier people addressed feminism in its narrow form, today we have started seeing the broader side of the concept which is diverse and more extensive. By showing their caliber in ruling the multiple sectors of the society, women have established the true essence of feminism on a bolder level in the country. The nation is standing with the modern women who knows her worth and is eager to explore all the faces of ‘Feminism’ to bring equality in freedom, work, opportunities, and lifestyle.

[1] The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987

[2] Shayara Bano vs Union of India (2017) 9 SCC1

[3] Source- https://www.pmuy.gov.in/

[4] Source- https://www.mudraloanyojna.com/

[5] Source- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/how-nirbhaya-case-changed-rape-laws-in-india/articleshow/72868366.cms

[6] The Secretary, Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya & Ors. MANU/SC/0194/2020

[7] Source - https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/women-officers-can-now-get-permanent-commission-in-indian-army/article32171210.ece

[8] Indian Young Lawyers Association V. The State of Kerala (2019)11 SCC 1

[9] Source- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/67965481/