Devis, but diminished     

The women’s movement has taught us many valuable lessons over the years, and we need to apply these lessons to the present day again and again

Photo by Saqib Majeed/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Saqib Majeed/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Githa Hariharan

The women’s movement has taught us many valuable lessons over the years, and we need to apply these lessons to the present day again and again.

First, women’s equality, and the struggle for it, cannot be seen as if they are independent of other power structures deeply entrenched in our society. This is why there is a natural alliance among different movements for equality, whether it is anti-caste movements, or anti-communalism movements, or workers’ movements or Adivasi movements.

Dalit and Adivasi women, for instance, have always been more vulnerable to patriarchal oppression as well as violence, including rape. With the Hindutva ideology on the ascendant, not only are Muslim women doubly marginalised; but so are all women, because those who use religion to create and deepen inequalities are always anxious to control women. Even if they may sometimes be called Devis, they are diminished, not full citizens.

In our times, when horrific violence is used almost casually in the name of religion, or caste and patriarchal “honour”, violence against women is bound to increase.

The answer is not to increase “safety” or “security”. The answers lie in fighting for all forms of equality, caste, gender, community, tribe -- and in every possible setting: at home; in classrooms; in the arts; in courts; and on the streets.

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