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Why has “Kali” Abandoned Indian Feminists?

September 16, 2012

In three generations, India has systematically exterminated more than 50 million women from its population – a number which is the sum total of the populations of Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Portugal put together.  

In her article Why Kali Won’t Rage Rita Banerji evokes the symbolism of the Hindu goddess Kali, known for her fierce and powerful fight against repression by men and asks why the female genocide in India has not incited an outright rebellion in India’s feminist movement? Why are India’s Kalis silent today?  

Banerji argues that this passivity stems from the de-politicization of the issue of gender oppression in India, which itself stems from India’s feminist movement.   She argues that prominent academics and women’s rights activists, who are at the van-guard of India’s feminist movement have insisted to the world that the state of women in India cannot be interpreted in light of a political power struggle, like in the west, but needs to be accepted and dealt with in a cultural context. 

[Note: The following is an excerpt from Rita Banerji’s article Why Kali Won’t Rage: A Critique of Indian Feminism’  published in the Gender Forum, Issue 38, 2012.  To read the full article CLICK HERE]

by Rita Banerji

Suma Chitnis [who was the Director of the Center of Women’s Studies, at the Tata Institute for Social Sciences,] in Feminism In India, a compilation of “some of the most influential writings on the concept of feminism in India” (Chaudhuri 1), describes how once, while attending an international seminar on gender roles in Canada, she was acutely conscious of the fact that while the western feminists there launched an “angry tirade” against the patriarchies in their countries, she felt no such anger towards the patriarchy in her own country.  She goes on to elaborate on Indian women’s general “disapproval of [the western] feminist anger” and their “confused reaction to the [western] feminist emphasis on patriarchy […] particularly on men as the principal oppressors” (Chitnis 8-10).

Chitnis muses that this might be because history and culture render, “the women’s issues different in India from the issues in the west.”  She points out that historically India has “always been [a] highly hierarchical [society]” with the hierarchies maintained through customs and social behavioral codes.  She also notes that unlike the west where individuality and personal freedom are emphasized, Indians cherish values like submission to superiors, “self-denial” and “sublimating the [individual] ego.”  In other words, Indian society is sociologically and psychologically acclimatized to the notion of a stratified social order, and what may appear as gender hierarchy to an outsider, is simply regarded as cultural observances by Indians. Also, what westerners may read as a forfeiting of the individual self is regarded by Indian women as a prioritizing of family and community over the individual. Hence they see it as making a choice in favor of the larger good.

Chitnis further justifies this perspective of Indian feminism by arguing that after Independence the Indian constitution “granted women political status fully equal to that of men. [And] thus Indian women did not have to bear the kind of injustices that women in the West had to suffer because of the […] gap between political ideals and realities. She contends that since Independence in 1947, the Indian government has through its series of Five Year Plans provided for the “welfare of women” such that if countries are compared in terms of legal provisions for women, India “is likely to emerge as one of the most progressive countries.” Chitnis feels this is one of the main reasons why Indian women are not as agitated as their western counterparts. She concludes that Indian women “see that the legal safeguards and equal opportunity facilities that are being fought for [by western feminists] […] are already available to them in principle” (Chitnis 9, 11, 17).

Banerji also cites Madhu Kishwar, editor and founder of Manushi,  a magazine which internationally is recognized as India’s premier ‘feminist’  journal, and which proclaims to address issues “about women and society.”

Madhu Kishwar in the same compilation of essays, Feminism in India, corroborates Chitnis’ viewpoint and further adds that “the idea of women’s rights and dignity […] [has] a much longer history of individual women’s assertiveness in India [than in the west.]” This she believes is evidenced in India’s traditions of goddess worship, where “Shakti” or power is recognized as an embodiment of the feminine. Kishwar insists that this in fact “allows Indian society to be far more receptive to women’s assertions and strengths” then western societies are. This, she argues, is also the reason why, unlike the west, in India, men too have historically participated in the women’s rights movement. She points out that during the British Colonial period men even took a leadership role in the abolishment of practices like sati, and the institution of laws to allow widows to remarry. Kishwar’s contention is that because of the tradition of goddess worship, Indian men are socially adjusted to the idea of women in positions of power and that this is one of main reasons why the women’s movement in India “did not acquire the overtones of gender warfare as it did in the West where women faced fierce hostility from most politically active men in their endeavours to win equality (35-36).

Banerji points out this viewpoint of the gender power hierarchy among feminist leaders in India is not only apolitical but is also highly unrealistic given the ground realities, which are over and above the ongoing female gendercide in India. She says

However, notwithstanding laws, the constitution, goddess worship and male feminists, the ground reality of women in India today is an outrage. While India has undergone astronomical growth in industry and wealth, and is now geared to become the third largest economy in the world (Sinha, P.), the state of Indian women, when taken as a national stratum that theoretically represents one half of the nation, has been horrendously regressive.

In 2010, the World Economic Forum released its Global Gender Gap report, in which India ranked at 112 out of a total of 134 countries (Murti). The report measured the difference in how men and women in each country had access to resources and opportunities. It took into consideration economics, education, political participation, health and survival. When countries are ranked according to economic participation and job opportunities for women, India ranks at 128, above just six other countries. Even in India’s booming corporate sector, the country’s highly educated and professional stratum, the average annual income of women is U.S. $1,185, less than a third of the average annual income for men at U.S. $3,698 (Nagrajan)….India also has one of the lowest female literacy rates in the world and in 2006 the World Bank estimated that more than 50% of India’s females above the age of 15 are illiterate (Business Standard). However, even this figure is misleading, since “measuring effective literacy in India means including anyone who can read and write his or her own name, [so if] […] Sita knows how to read and write the four letters of her name [she is counted] […] in the category of effective literates” (Bhaskar). Almost 50% of girls in India are married off by their families before the age of 18, and India singularly also accounts for one-third of the world’s child brides (Sinha K., UNGA).

Banerji points out in her article that it therefore critical that the Indian feminist movement come to terms with the reality of the misogyny  that is responsible both for the inequality and repression of women and girls in India society, and is the primary factor that’s driving the mass and targeted annihilation of women in India.  She argues that like all other genocides, the Indian female genocide too is rooted in an irrational, culture based hatred of the targeted group, and this must be recognized.

What is now amply evident is that this existential disparity faced by India’s women is fueled by an unrestrained misogyny. A misogyny that not only does not permit women an equal life-style but one that does not even permit them the most fundamental of all human rights — the right to live. A 2011 global poll by Thomson Reuters Foundation identifies India as the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women (Chowdhury)….This signifies a misogyny that does not even spare infants and girls. A 2007 UNICEF report shows that the mortality rate of girls under 5 years was abnormally high, about 40% higher than boys the same age, and this was due to intentional neglect, a malicious denial of food and medication, that is tantamount to negligent homicide (UNICEF 12). A 2011 study by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Harvard School of Public Health showed that girls under 5 years were 21% more likely than boys that age, and infant girls one-year or younger were 50% more likely to die than infant boys that age, because of violence inflicted on them at home. They estimated that in the last two decades more than 1800,000 girls under the age of 6 years have been killed by domestic violence. The head researcher Jay Silverman said, “Being born a girl into a family in India in which your mother is abused makes it significantly less likely that you will survive early childhood. Shockingly, this violence does not pose a threat to your life if you are lucky enough to be born a boy” (Sinha K., Violence at Home).

Rita Banerji is an author and gender activist, and the founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide.  Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies,‘ is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide.  Her website is She blogs at Rebellions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji

53 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanna Galewska permalink
    September 16, 2012 12:16 pm

    I cannot resist the impression that this much resembles me the discussions being carried out in Poland. The defendants of the status quo argue that women feel great in the traditional order of things for it is compatible with “their very nature” and the feminists are crazy and just unloved. The fact that there are many women among the traditionals can also be confusing for the observators.

    • September 20, 2012 3:36 pm

      That’s an important point about the feminist back-lash in countries like the US too — the idea that’s being pushed that ‘feminists’ are “crazy and unloved.” That just goes to show how dirty this power politics gets. Women in the west whether or not they support the feminist movement there, still want and want to use the rights the feminists have fought for. It’s a pity that women are unsafe, have unequal pay, are sexually exploited, and there is much work to be done, and women who use these rights, need to also contribute to the future of their daughters to make it an equal society for them. They take and won’t give. That’s probably one of the biggest differences from other equality movements. Black people use use rights fought for them, may not be a part of the anti-racist movement, but they don’t curse it, and they also morally support it. So we must ask what makes women turn on themselves like this everywhere?

  2. September 18, 2012 8:08 pm

    “why do western feminists view the gender violence and inequality in India and other third world countries as cultural issues instead of global feminist issues?”

    It is because it is cultural problem. In a third world country then one village can be female-dominated and the next village to be male-dominated. In one village women have gone on management course with more and in the other village women may be illiterate. What is the difference?! The only fundamental difference is that women marry younger in women’s village. Because babies are so cute and a man is no problem.

    • September 19, 2012 6:02 am

      And we suppose you think the Jewish genocide, and the genocide of Tutsis in Rawanda, and racial apartheid in South Africa and the U.S. were all cultural issues too, right? Well, we here believe women are human, and just as the Jewish, Tutsi, and Bosnian genocides were human rights issues, so is the genocide of women.

    • September 25, 2012 1:38 pm

      Peter, Politics is about the power of groups and individuals. So anything that culture, religion or government does that affects the power of individuals and/or groups, is political. Your argument is dangerous. Gandhi made the same argument for the treatment of Dalits (the lowest caste) in India. He said this is not a political issue but a cultural or religious issue. And it did immense harm to the Dalits of India. Over the last few years they have regrouped, politicized their issues and taken it not only to the national level of politics in India but to International human rights bodies too — and that’s the only way they have been and will be able to bring about any changes. The feminist movement did the same: Hence the acknowledgement not just for women’s rights for for the rights of all individuals and groups “The personal is political.” The women’s groups in India have not learned the lesson that the Dalit groups have, and it is time for change.

  3. September 19, 2012 7:33 am

    A legal problem is solved by changing the law.
    A political problem is solved by changing the policy.
    A cultural problem solved by changing the culture.
    Originally, the society woman-dominated because women married younger age than men, but over time as captured warlords ground and paid soldiers with land and slave girls. The Indian women are still the slaves that were given to soldiers. It has become a part of their culture.

  4. September 19, 2012 7:49 am

    The Jewish genocide was political. (They lived peacefully for many years.)
    The genocide of Tutsis in Rawanda was political. (They lived peacefully for many years.)
    The racial apartheid in South Africa and the U.S. was a legal problem. (both the U.S. and South Africa now have black presidents.)
    Bosnian genocides was political. (They lived peacefully for many years.)
    The genocide of Indian women is a constant and unchanging problem. Because it is a cultural problem.
    You love the Indian culture but your love makes you blind.

    • September 20, 2012 3:31 pm

      Very interesting you think that. If you read the Hitler’s works or any of the pamphlets put out defending slavery, all the explanations were based on religion and protecting their culture and society. But all religion and cultures and their fights for supremacy whether of a race, religion or gender is — political. So sorry, your argument is facetious.

  5. September 19, 2012 8:30 am

    In a female-dominated society that makes women just what they want. Women are happy and lovable, and they are adored by men.

    In a male-dominated society that makes men just what they want. The men are evil and vile, and they are still adored by women. If a woman lose the love of the evil men so she wanted to die. Or she been a bitter feminist.

    In a feminist society, women are evil and vile as men. But men find it difficult to worship them.

    Which of these three communities is the best for you?

    • September 20, 2012 4:08 pm

      Peter, your three community examples are poor choices, so I pick none (I don’t want to be adored by men, just respected). Patriarchies can be respectful of and humane towards women, gays, the elderly, disabled, etc., which is where I agree with you that it completely depends on the culture. I think your classification of some human rights abuses as political problems and others as cultural is inaccurate — it’s ALL culture. Matriarchies can be just as problematic if they embody the same values as the dominating eurowestern culture, or others like it.

    • September 21, 2012 9:41 pm

      to Feminist Rag
      A man only respect a woman as an equal, if she beat him.
      The alternatives are female oppression or female domination.

      Earth has 6000 cultures. Which one do you like best?

    • September 23, 2012 7:06 pm

      Peter, I am most interested in Indigenous, matriarchal cultures. 🙂

    • September 26, 2012 6:57 pm

      Feminist Rag; I am most interested in Indigenous, matriarchal cultures.

      The matriarchal cultures, are the future. Rita’s attempt to save a corrupt and feudalistic male society will fail.
      oppression of Dalits and women are two sides of the same coin.

  6. September 19, 2012 12:23 pm

    Thanks Rita jee, for your ever venture for sake of Girls and Womens in India thru 50 Million… I am of the view that the main govt. organizations are grasped by a lobby of Political Womens Groups. They are too satisfied with the dominated male class politicians and bureaucrats. These womens who are on such higher posts on Women’s Organizations doesn’t answerable to anybody. The judiciary is so slow that after 20 year’s of domestic violence, a social women with me is fighting her case in Indian courts, you won’t believe that only Rs. 500 relief from court has given to her. I send her to many of such women’s organisations but no use. They are having power to only counselling and mediations. The govt. is expanding a huge money on these organizations but of no use? A DCP office has said that they can send maximum 3 notice to her husband, if he don’t present, we have no power beyond that! She didn’t not marry since last 18 year’s and have a wish for the punishment to the culprit husband family but all in vain. She has such experience in life that she has decided never marry in life while her husband married before 18 years to other girl and having 2 childs of adolscent age. If you would like to have her concerns, i can send it to you! So, it is to be said that in India nobody women’s organizations or even courts do not have any solution for such womens!

    • September 20, 2012 3:14 pm

      I absolutely agree, that the government is putting a huge amount of money into the organizations, and most of the women running this are only interested in their own vested interests and not in actually creating a strong political and legal system to not just stop but prevent abuse, indeed the so many killings of women and girls in India. But — the women of India must demand that the women in politics, government, women’s organizations, have to confront and change the system. Yes, please do send me details of this case you are talking about. I will see if we can help her.

    • September 20, 2012 6:46 pm

      The main cause of violence is that people do not learn conflict resolution. People think that you have to take many years to school to learn to read. But to live closely together with another person, you must be by instinct.
      Is there anyone other than me who can see it illogical?

    • September 21, 2012 11:08 pm

      Peter, I agree with you that the ways people deal (or don’t deal!) with conflict is a major factor around violence, as well as how people think of violence in general — some people and cultures think violence is a “necessary evil” while others don’t think of it as an option at all, or as a last resort to only be used in self-defense when no other options exist and one’s life is in jeopardy. I also agree with you that it doesn’t take 10 PhD’s or huge academic knowledge to manage conflict; it just requires being a thoughtful, compassionate and respectful human being. In my mind, it usually comes back around to culture — some cultures take peace and respect for people VERY seriously, while others do not. It is very difficult to change cultural values, and always starts at home and our immediate community. There’s no hope in “saving the world” unless we can save ourselves and our own community members in need.

  7. September 20, 2012 10:41 am

    Hello Rita, interesting article. I am wondering, what was life like for Indian women pre-colonization? Did this level of oppression and abuse still exist? In the Americas, white women’s oppression existed in Europe because their men held the same values as when they brought them (their values and women) over to the Americas with their colonization, but Native American and African American women’s lives were very different before being contaminated by colonization (as were all non-colonist lives and cultures). So I’m wondering how this applies (or doesn’t apply) to the Indian context.

    • September 20, 2012 3:39 pm

      If you could go please go through the paper embedded in this post, I talk about it. The first time that women’s rights were legally considered in India was during the British rule — the banning of the murder of widows (sati) by burning them alive, the banning of female infanticide, raising the marriage age of girls, property rights — many things. There was a rise of a very definitive feminist movement which collapsed soon after independence in India and that’s one of the things I discussed in this paper, why that was so, and also in my book Sex and Power (Penguin).

    • September 20, 2012 3:59 pm

      Thanks for the comment Rita. I tried to read the paper but the link keeps taking me to a “Bad Gateway” page so I can’t access it.

    • September 21, 2012 10:04 am

      Thanks for bringing it to our notice! It may be a server problem, because it was up till yesterday. We’ve let Gender Forum know and they should have it fixed soon.

    • September 21, 2012 8:27 pm

      “I am wondering, what was life like for Indian women pre-colonization?”
      The pre-colonization Indian was many different countries.

      Women were slaves in the richest areas, particularly in the upper class. And in some poor remote areas dominated by women.

    • September 25, 2012 1:41 pm

      @Feminist Rag — Thanks for engaging with this issue. I just heard from the Gender Forum. They had a big crash on their system but everything’s back up now. So you can see the paper now. I look forward to your comments on it.

    • September 27, 2012 10:36 am

      Oh good, I’m glad it got worked out, thanks for the notice. I was able to access your paper and read it tonight. It was quite eye-opening and gave me much to think about.

      Firstly, I wanted to applaud the important work that you are doing given the political/cultural nightmare you’re living in. I hope you have a good support network because I imagine this kind of work can be isolating and exhausting, not to mention dangerous. Have you had a lot of backlash? The more of your work I read the more I am understanding how dangerous it is to be an Indian woman. How do you feel about/do you identify with Shakti/Shakti-ism? Your courage and the power of your work feels like you embody Shakti in some way. Are there any Shakta communities today, or have they been totally wiped out by the violent patriarchy?

      “what westerners may read as a forfeiting of the individual self is regarded by Indian women as a prioritizing of family and community over the individual.”

      As a westerner, I see individualism as a real cultural cancer and I respect & see much value in prioritizing family and community over the individual, just because it makes sense and feels like the natural, right thing to do. Euro-Westernism is unique in that it seems to be the only culture going against this basic human way of organizing, though it does a great job of de-humanizing many other aspects of life in the name of so-called civilization. I agree with your statement: “Rather the burden, indeed the oppression, is when the culturally ordained role becomes an imposition that violates women’s individual rights of choice, physical safety, mental well-being and human dignity.”

      I thought it was interesting how the British administration backed down from enforcing a new child marriage age law because of the huge community backlash. It confirmed for me how colonialism doesn’t care about human rights one bit, it only cares about exploitation (the root of economics). So it is then not a big surprise that the euro-colonist, patriarchal legal systems — in whatever land they’re set up — fail women. I love how Andrea Dworkin explains it: “Don’t respect their laws. No. Don’t respect their laws. Women need to be making laws…There is no reason for any woman, any woman in the world, to be basically performing fellatio on the current legal system. But mostly that is what one is in law school to learn how to do.” Certainly the legal system is one way to make change, but it’s a very frustrating and slow process. And when new laws are passed, it doesn’t mean they are enforced if the dominant culture’s values don’t change, as your paper discusses.

      It is indeed curious how women’s dissenting voices fell silent after Independence. I wonder what other reasons could explain this shift? Here in the west there seemed to be more political outrage 30, 40 yrs ago than there is now, and I think in part, it has to do with the growing neo-liberalism which fuels cultural conservatism, and since the dominant culture inflicting itself on everyone here is a Christian-colonist one, this makes an already bad situation worse.

      I like the steps you listed at the end for what the Indian women’s movement should focus on. I would add combat training because though I used to believe in pacifism, I’ve come to realize that the patriarchal colonist culture (on whichever land it has inflicted itself on) dominates wholly through violence, so we must self-defend in whatever way necessary. Though in India’s case, it sounds like a violent patriarchy was firmly in place pre-colonization, and now that it seems to unfortunately be thriving, it seems like Indian women can benefit from combat training to save their lives from all the violence they face. Though the mindset of dissent has to be there first, and your paper explains that not many Indian women are at this point yet, is that right?

      This is all complex stuff for me to process because I spend a lot of time just thinking about the culture I’m embedded in and trying to figure it out and where I stand in it and what to do with all the oppressions surrounding me. I have more questions than answers, and when I learn about other misogynistically dis-eased cultures, it only adds to my questions since they all look a little different depending on the culture they’re embedded in. I try to acknowledge the differences as well as see the commonalities while not pretending to remove myself from my own personal and cultural filters since that is impossible.

      I know you differentiate between politics and culture, but I feel politics is very much part of a culture just because culture shapes everything, so it’s not really possible to separate them out, i.e. politics is shaped by the culture its embedded in. For cultures infected with colonization, the culture clash (and blend) makes things more complicated. Do you think colonization was a good thing for Indian women compared to pre-colonial Indian patriarchy? From your paper, it sounds like it only made things worse given today’s state of affairs for women.

      Looking forward to your thoughts.

    • October 1, 2012 1:01 pm

      @Feminist Rag – Fantastic feedback! In fact I do actually address most of the questions you raise here in detail in my book ‘Sex and Power’ (Penguin Books). It’s available in many libraries and online, and I hope you’ll have chance to read it. To answer your questions
      1) Yes, there’s a lot of resistance to not just to this viewpoint or the campaign, but even to the idea of letting the truth out about the gendericide. A tremendous amount of denial. I’ve heard things like ‘this happens’ everywhere from women in women’s studies programs in India and women running women’s ngos. And I’m thinking, 1 woman burnt to death every 5 mintues, rate at which girls under 5 years are killed is now 75% higher than boys. This is not true even for the poorest countries in the world in Africa. Further this gendercide is not happening in the poorest 20% of India. But correlates with wealth and education, and is worst for the top 20%. See this
      2) There is no evidence that the Shakta philosophy was actually grounded in the social structure of any kind of matriarchal community. In my book I hypothesize that there may have been a community of ‘feminist thinkers’ who clashed violently with the patriarchal communities and were wiped out. Or else they transformed. So for instance in India we have had matrilineal communities in the past in Kerala and the North East, where land and property passed from women to women, BUT the head of the household was always a man! He controlled everything and took decisions. And that’s why we also have customs that still continue like a woman is married to her maternal uncle (mother’s own brother), which to many outside India seems like a form of incest. But in this case which was reported to our campaign (click for the full report) you have that tradition of the woman married to her uncle, but the gender dynamics are the same as for the rest of India.
      3) Am I for the Shakta or matriarchal oriented philosophies in their purest form? Actually not. Because what I discovered to my surprise, which I discuss in my book too, is that the matriarchies wanted the same sort of hierarchical power structure like the patriarchal religions in India wanted (and have established). It struck me how in there was an insistence on the mother demanding a priority in sexual access to her sons, the same way it was in the reverse in the patriarchal religions. Like this. The Shakta religion was the precursor to the Tantric philosophies, and in their initial stage, when they were pure theology the Tantrics believed in the complete equality of the genders at every level. And that was the basis of the religion which in due course also got badly mangled.
      4) I go into the concept of individuality and individualism in my book as well, and difference between the two from Jung’s viewpoint of individuation – where he believed that conscious raising, indeed choices, responsibilities happen at the individual level , as well as rights happen at the individual level. If you go through these news reports one of the reason a lot of violence happens at the gang level is because it easier to get away with it that way. Who will you prosecute?
      5) Your last question – why the change in perspective came about in India’s feminist movement. In my book I talk about the pre-existing feminist movement. In fact it’s amazing how they were making arguments that were not even being made in Europe. For e.g. questioning the idea of motherhood, of sexual ownership of women, challenging whether men are actually afraid of women’s sexual desires and powers. I mean amazing writings by Indian women. In my research I point the finger squarely at Gandhi. I know it ‘s another unpopular stand with Indians and with the world. But he was a massive cult figure and he really changed the gender dynamics with what he said and did. His idea of women’s rights were – they don’t enter politics, or work or get an education, but they silently serve the men from behind their domestic doors. He was wife beater and he said he did wrong but his wife did learn from it! He said women were sexually perverted because of their menses. He said fathers who killed their daughters who were raped were in great pain, and that raped women should do the right thing by their families, i.e. commit suicide and save them that effort!! There is much I have to say about Gandhi in my book, and here’s an article that sort of covers some of the points (It’s interesting how illogical some of the public responses are to this if you read the comments).

  8. September 21, 2012 7:28 pm
    Why Won’t Kali Rage: A Critical View of How Indian Feminists View Violence Against Women in India

    by Rita Banerji

  9. PalomaSharma permalink
    September 29, 2012 2:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Going Bananas and commented:
    Culture is no excuse. Gendercide is gendercide,

  10. September 30, 2012 12:32 pm

    “Certainly the legal system is one way to make change, but it’s a very frustrating and slow process.”

    In several communities where the law says that women are a kind of animal, so the women decide.

    This is because women’s unity is above the law.
    There is not someone who can oppose women if they stand together. The law is just paper,
    The women are numerous mens home.

  11. September 30, 2012 7:42 pm

    A gendercide is political decision, not a culture. Culture can change, but only from below. It is very difficult to change an entire culture with a political decision at the top.
    The culture that kills women, also kills Dalits, and in addition to this culture promotes corruption.

    Why is a woman’s life worth more than a Dalits life?

    • October 1, 2012 5:43 am

      @Peter — We think you are misunderstanding that. What Rita has said is that the oppression/killings of Dalits in India is still seen as a “cultural” issue by most Indians and political leaders, including Gandhi. But the Dalits have pushed to redefine and tackle this as a national and international political issue and a human rights issue. And Rita says, Indian women must do the same regarding their gendercide.

  12. shatruajaat permalink
    November 1, 2012 6:32 am

    I love you, you must visit website please. Help me there creating awareness about the state of women in India.

  13. Raj permalink
    December 1, 2012 11:52 am

    Abuse in Indian society was always on men. It is a hypocrisy that women and politicians want to grab power in punishing innocent men. Men who were abused became saints and sages. If any of you disagree I recommend to install few cameras inside Indian houses. India has the highest anti-male discrimination laws and social culture.

  14. January 23, 2013 4:48 pm

    A human life is a human life.It must be protected by law, enforced by the local and national legal organizations.

  15. January 25, 2013 3:59 am

    First you need to promote a culture that puts human life high.
    Thus it is obvious that women and Dalits have the same value as all other people.

    • Sunjay permalink
      February 10, 2013 8:24 pm

      You certainly have absolutely no idea of ground realities in India, a Brahmin girl is 100% more privileged than a SC/ST boy. This “women and dalit equal-equal” propaganda is promoted by Brahmin feminists.

    • February 11, 2013 1:05 pm

      We have no idea what you are trying to say here? Did you find anything about caste in this post? What are you reading?

  16. Sunjay permalink
    February 10, 2013 8:15 pm

    Maybe its because Indian feminists are always Brahmins. Ms Banerji herself is a a Brahmin, and she doesn’t even live in India.

    • February 16, 2013 11:46 am

      @Sunjay: That’s a daft comment! By itself it doesn’t make sense. So I’m going to interpret it the best I can. I’m guessing from this nonsensical statement that you are saying — that I’m saying, that upper class, and upper caste women suffer the same way that lower-class and lower caste women do. Now I’m just guessing that’s what you are trying to say. The answer to that is “NO!” Class, caste and race gets compounded in the terms of violence women are subjected to in India. So if you are a lower caste woman, you suffer violence both from men in your own caste, and men in the upper caste! However, if a women is burnt alive for dowry, that violence is the same, the injustice is the same, regardless of what caste, or class or clan she belong to! Secondly, before you make a comment, I’d suggest you read the material and comprehend where the writer is coming from, to avoid coming across as idiotic as you do here! Finally, that personal part of your comment about Brahmin etc. Do you know me? Do you know what my faith, and belief and personal stands in life are? I don’t subscribe to these institutions and I don’t care what your class, class or caste is either! And I’ll be damned if I have to put up with other people’s idiotic projections on me!

    • Sunjay permalink
      February 16, 2013 3:21 pm

      Dowry was an upper caste phenomenon, its now impacting backward caste people specially the urban educated folks thanks to Sanskritisation, The same is true of female foeticide. Your surname says you are a Bengali Brahmin, so does your arrogance, its doesn’t matter what you “subscribe,” the privilege that you get as a child is real. Indian feminists are exclusively Upper Caste, primarily Brahmins, Dalit women have to form their own organizations. This is the reason for Indian feminists “culture worship” but of course it will appear to be “idiotic” to you Ms Banerji.

  17. July 2, 2013 9:00 pm

    Frankly western perspectives do not work and patriarchy is not an exact term i tend to use, because it doesnt seem to apply. If you have never heard of india and have just read constitution alone, youd yell india is a matriarchal country and men are marginalized. But that is not the reality, because the culture is oppressive, you cant legislate away a societal attitude. If a dad refuses to educate his daughter , you cant fix it with law.

    • July 6, 2013 7:55 pm

      Yes you can. All countries started off with patriarchal mentalities where children and women were owned by the father. But it had to be challenged. But it was legally challenged and laws enforced. That’s how women’s rights came about. That’s how slavery ended. That is the only way forward for India too.

  18. Nadeem Zafar permalink
    November 3, 2013 1:50 pm

    Rita, this is a fabulous article. Being an activist and writer myself, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve written here. I particularly liked the section where you stated that India’s gender struggle is more cultural than political – which I think is very true. Culture tends to evolve more slowly over time than politics, as we all know, and is often more difficult to define as every country has a different cultural identity. Although I live in the West myself (I was born and raised in Manchester, England), I also lived in Lahore, Pakistan for five years, between September 1993 and November 1998, and I frequently found this issue to be just as prevalent over there too. I often find myself at odds with the whole concept of the West being so reactive to issues like gender equality as it appears really false and insincere because as we all know, the UK and US for example only ever intervene in a conflict in another country when there’s something in it for them in terms of a vested interest or whatever. I would like to sincerely thank you for this article and wish you the very best of luck with your future endeavours.

    • November 4, 2013 11:38 am

      Thank you for this input Nadeem. And I agree with you as well. I’ve argued that if the U.S. was on the verge of attacking or invading Afghanistan, then we’d have seen Malala’s face, bloody and shot on the front cover of the Time probably, with the argument that girls need to be protected from the Taliban. Like it was with the young woman whose nose was cut off. Right now, the message being sent out is that the Taliban needs to be taken on board, and that apparently little girls like Malala can fight them with a note-book and pencil, as the western forces decide it is in their interest to withdraw.

  19. November 6, 2013 1:38 am

    Wow !!! ,
    I Read your Article , ” Why has “Kali” Abandoned Indian Feminists? ” Which Brought me here and I Agree as well Gender Issues in India are based on Cultural and Traditional influences .
    At First , I really did think that using a western approach would be better . However i’m seeing a pattern emerging in western countries , Feminism in the west now is being disliked quite a bit so such an extent that people are afraid to call themselves Feminists.

    Feminism in India Should Have is Own Unique Identity based on its own culture and traditions.
    I fully Support , True Gender Equality .
    All the best for your future Projects .

    Jai Hind

    • November 10, 2013 12:48 pm

      Feminists all through history, in any country, in any time period were disliked, hated in fact. That’s normal when a repressed group fights for equality. Civil rights leaders fighting for equality of blacks were hated. Martin Luther King and others was assassinated. Ultimately whether it is racial or gender or religion based equality — all the groups fighting for equal rights are asking for the same thing. They are all asking for the most fundamental rights guaranteed to all human beings.

  20. Tom permalink
    January 18, 2014 8:43 am

    I really liked your article and since I am still compiling information I wanted to share just some observation. You have written that Indian woman don’t speak up as part of their survival strategy, I would like to add something here: to my observation who we are and how we see the world is largely defined by upbringing. In lack of better words I would classify it as self-esteem or self value. If beeing respected and nurished in your childhood will have a high likelyhood to grow yourself an amour which makes you resilient throughout your life. On the other hand beeing told that your value is nothing in these early years (if you are not a very stubborn and/or recusant) there will be a high likelyhood of this beeing your perception of the world making you easy prey to outside force. It gives them a lever against you. I know a number of very bright Indians (interestingly not only girls) that were constantly told to have zero value by their parents. To prove these voices in their head wrong they have exceeded all expectations yet in their own eyes all of this is and they themselves are worth very little (subconciously). So beyond beeing a defensive strategy I would also describe what I can see as psychological damage. The bonds that hold them back are in their minds, too.


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