WOMEN’S MOVEMENT IN INDIA – A Talk by Krishna Menon

Suddenly the hustle and bustle settled down and amidst a room full of girls with thousands of thoughts running wild about what is going to happen, entered Krishna Menon to talk about “Women’s Movement in India”. It started with Aarti, the Secretary of our Union, introducing Ms Menon, a professor from the Political Science Department and telling us a bit about her achievements.

Ms Menon began with telling us about the background of Women’s Movement. She talked about how this was the story of us and how there were hundreds of women in the history, whose names no book mentions but who should nonetheless be remembered and thanked. “Women need to be heard, not just seen” she said and briefly touched the topic of ‘Feminism’.  She then began to tell us about the history of how women began to step out of their homes and into the big world, fighting for their rights and telling a story of their life. She explained the various developments with the help of a PowerPoint presentation.

She addressed the common notion that Women’s Movements are ‘western’ in origin and along the way gave various instances of how women in India have been trying to challenge the societal norms of matrimony and domesticity. She then talked about the various developments in Europe during the 16th and 17th Century and how even after things like Renaissance and Liberalism came up, women were still treated as not being capable of autonomous individual thinking as they didn’t have “rationality” and were “emotional” and “spontaneous”. Ms Menon described the situation of women during independence, mentioning how Mahatma Gandhi included them in the Nationalist Movement, and their condition after independence. In both cases, women’s development was appreciated but they were still expected to be good mothers and wives.

Then she began to tell us about the how in the 1970s, Women’s Movements gained a sort of momentum. Along the way she mentioned names like Dr Vina Mazumdar, who headed a Committee set up by the government to look into the status of women, Dr Ella Bhatt, founder of SEWA and other iconic women. She mentioned about the events that shaped the history of women’s movements and how during Emergency, new questions emerged. She also talked about the important issues of the 1970s including Anti-Dowry, feminism, rights of women, custodial deaths, etc. . She then moved on to the 1980s and 1990s, talking about the issues and major events that took place including the Shah Bano case, Rooop Kanwar and Sati. She addressed the 1990s’ debate of obscenity and issues like sex work, domestic work and should it be paid? To conclude she talked about how women participated in not just movements related to their rights but also environmental movements and political ones. Overall, women had started to come out and speak.

After the end of the discussion, there were questions in everyone’s mind which Ms Menon explained was the purpose of a talk like this. She said that it was not supposed to give us answers but was supposed to ignite new questions. To say that it was interesting would not justify what it left us feeling and thinking. The talk left us with questions and a new insight into what went into making Women’s Movement and Feminism what it is today.

Reported By Akshita Negi

Photo Credits: Disha Kanojia

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