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Social Movements: women's movements

It is well recognized that women are victim of many domestic crime since ancient time. To tackle such situation and enhance the position of women, numerous woman movements were started. It is said that women's movements are among the most important crusade of modern social movements. Historical records indicated that since nineteenth-century, Canadian women's suffrage campaigns to recent direct actions for sustainable development in India, wherever women's movements have been established, national organizations and local grassroots groups have worked together to support women and girls. Diverse, even conflicting, compassions of women's interests rise from differences in gender, race, class, cultural, religion, and sexuality, as well as from global divisions of wealth and power. However, the rifeness of oppression against women has resulted in formation of international women's movements with common agendas, linked to struggles for sovereignty, democracy, and secure livelihoods around the world.

To honour woman, March 8th is celebrated around the world. It is considered as a historical day, an icon of the struggle waged against mistreatment and oppression by women all over the world, for over a century. It is a day to express and demonstrate collective strength and to renew struggle of women for equality and justice.

When apprising the ideologies of women movements, it is specified that within the women's movement, there have been different understandings of patriarchal oppression and its outcomes and, therefore, also varied strategies to combat it. Some organizations have small intellectual groups while there have been some that have had mass support. Some have emerged in support of certain causes or for the purpose of a focused campaign, while there are some groups that have existed for years with evolving agendas. The principles vary from radical, liberal, socialist, Marxist and Gandhian, to the new fundamentalist.

It is documented in many studies that the women's movement has a long history in India. Much longer than the current 'second wave' movement, or even the 'first wave' of earlier this century. The Shakti cults go back centuries, and the concept of Shakti, the female power principle was recognized thousands of years ago. In this form, the women's movement signifies, not merely an oppositional force powered by anger, a rather negative reaction to oppression, but the development of a distinctive female culture, a positive creative force inspiring men and women alike (Liddle et al. 1986). The changes or rather the transitions that have occurred within the women's movement in India have not followed a chronological or linear pattern, but have at all stages involved a collage of influences, local, national and international.

The goals and structures of women's movements reveal the commonalities as well as the differences among women. For example, feminist movements tend to be related with the aspirations, and the opportunities, of middle-class women. Feminist movements include women's rights movements focusing on the goals of equal rights under the law and equal access to education, careers, and political power; women's liberation movements that challenge cultural patterns of male dominance in the family and personal life through strategies that raise the awareness of women of their own subjugation, often within the context of women-only groups. Black feminist movements address racism along with sexism; and socialist feminist movements look women's empowerment as tied to the role of government, labour, and civil society in safeguarding the rights of all citizens to equity and social security. The campaigners in feminine movements tend to be working-class women organizing to address problems of poverty and sexism and their overwhelming effects on the health and wellbeing of their families. Womanist, a term invented by the writer Alice Walker, refers to the confidence, strength, and wisdom of African-American women based in their cultures and long struggle to support their children and communities and to end racism and all forms of prejudice.

Religiously diverse, multilingual, and caste-divided India also has one of the most vibrant and many-stranded women's movements in the world. One of their primacies is challenging patriarchal religious practices, while at the same time respecting religious differences. Another is lessening the poverty and insecurity of women and their families.

It is found in reports that the women's upliftment period began in the late nineteenth century, first among elite Hindu men and women and, later, Muslims. Besides stressing education, they called for reform of the practices of widow remarriage, polygamy, purdah (the veiling and seclusion of women), property rights, and sati (the ritual suicide of widows). To curb these sinful acts made by society's traditional leaders or heads, Women established their own autonomous organizations, the most important of which was the All India Women's Conference (AIWC) in 1927. In 1934, when AIWC introduced a bill for equality in marriage, divorce, and property rights, they drew upon the nationalist rights discourse; and after independence in 1947, women were granted constitutional equality. However, the Hindu, Islamic, and other religious communities retained jurisdiction over family law (Desai 2001).

In second phase of women empowerment, grass-roots organizations formed and these focused not only upon gender but also upon caste, class, and culture as roots of women's persecution. The groups in this movement were associated with grass-roots labour, labourer, and tribal movements as well as leftist opposition parties. Among their activities were protests by tribal women in the Toilers' Union in Maharastra against alcohol-related domestic violence and by the Chipko movement of poor women in the Himalayas to protect their forest resources and highlight women's unrecognized economic contributions. The Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), a union of women working as street vendors and rag-pickers and in home-based industries, established the first women's bank for poor women (Desai 2001).

Women's participation in movements has been in four major forms:

  1. For social, economic and political rights of specific categories of people like tribal, peasants and industrial workers.
  2. For improvement in conditions of work and autonomy to women.
  3. For equal remuneration for work.
  4. In general social movements on issues affecting men and children like abortions, adoption of children, sexual exploitation.

Sustainable, grassroots development as a precedence of Indian women's movement organizations is demonstrated by the organization Stree Mukti Sangharsh (Women's Liberation Struggle). They envisaged development that promotes equality between men and women and overcomes the economic and environmental consequences of the rural areas precipitated by large multinational corporations whose focus on short-term gains have created unsustainable forms of development (Desai 2001). In the decades 1970s, autonomous, openly feminist women's movements ascended. These groups were annoyed by the dismissals of cases of girls raped by police and by religiously sanctioned violations of women's human rights. Their campaigns refocused on violence against women, dowry deaths (the murder of brides for their dowries), sex-selective abortions, and sati (Kumar 1995).

The success of women's movement organizations has met with an antifeminist repercussion, which calls upon familial, communal, and religious identities to try to push back women's gains (Kumar 1995). Since poverty and insecurity raised the flame of reactionary fears, the feminist tactic of promoting grassroots-based sustainable development is a double-edged one. It addressed both the economic independence of women and the long-term security and well-being of the whole community.

In academic domain, The International Women's Decade, 1975-85, has provided push to the growth of social science literature on women, their status in society and issues related to gender-based discrimination and inequality in particular. Gender studies are always on the priority agenda of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and the University Grants Commission (UGC). Several universities have Centres for Women's Studies. A research institute focusing on women, the Centre for Women's Development Studies was established with the support of ICSSR in 1980. There is also a full-fledged academic journal focusing on gender studies. A survey of literature by Malvika Karlekar (2000) on 'Women's Studies and Women's Development', sponsored by ICSSR covers the studies up to 1990. It is a valuable document for further research in the field. By now, we also have a few compilations including an annotated bibliography on women's studies (Vyas and Singh 1993). Social science texts on various aspects of gender has increased significantly during the 1980s and 1990s. Many monographs and essays use the term 'movement' in a broader sense in their titles dealing with women writings, discourse, issues affecting women's position in socio-economic spheres, rather than confining themselves to mobilization and collective action by women.

Except for a few, many of the studies are subjective, impressionistic and polemical for action prescription for action written by feminist activists in journalistic style. For activists involved in feminist movements, feminism is not merely a discourse to be analyzed, but 'a method of bringing about social change'. Some theoretical studies are also available, but it is sensed that they deal mainly with issues raised by western scholars. Even if this is so, this should not disparage the importance of such studies. Western influence affects all spheres of our life.

In the period of globalization, 'women's resistance to male domination' was the product of western education. British, women took the initiative in establishing women's organizations and defining their objectives. Women's liberation movements in India are believed to be mainly influenced by women's movements in the west, which emphasized the 'universality' of gender oppression and therefore 'universal sisterhood' of women. This has been interrogated by many intellectuals. It is contended that feminism as a movement is entrenched in the specific 'national history and culture' (Niranjana 2000).

A few scholar-activists have begun to raise issues relevant to the Indian background. Liddle and Joshi stated that the nature of male dominance is different in India from that in western society, therefore, the demands and resistance of women against males are also different. They argue:

"Ideologically, cultural imperialism has introduced the notion of female inferiority which had no part in Indian culture, where female power and its containment were stressed. Although females were segregated in the upper castes into the domestic sphere, this separation did not imply an inferior evaluation of the domestic, since that arena was crucial to the maintenance of caste purity. The inferiority notion adds a derogatory component to the gender ideology, serving to worsen women's position. It also makes for a degraded position for women abroad when added to the imperialist ideology of Western racial superiority; for, the context of imperialism creates a notion not only of women's inferiority to men, but also of Indian women's inferiority to Western women (Liddle and Joshi 1986)."

Some editors and activist scholars, also emphasized the need to look into Indian traditions and try to separate the devastating aspects from the points of strength within the cultural traditions, and start using the strengths to transform the traditions. Indian cultural traditions have remarkable potential within them to combat reactionary and anti-women ideas. If people can identify their points of strength and use them creatively. Gabriele Dietrich criticized that the use of religion has been ignored by women's movements as an obscurantist hangover. She feels that the women's movement needs to go into the cultural question more profoundly. The effort to give women a new sense of identity beyond family, caste and religion needs to grapple with the problem of cultural identity and continuity. It is reasonably easy to point out what has been oppressive and destructive of women in cultural.

It is a fact that there is a gap. Traditional idioms and symbols are also creatively used to liberate women from subservient positions in the social system. In that context, there is a debate on Gandhi's role during the freedom struggle to bring women into the political domain. Vina Mazurndar (1976), Devaki Jain (1986) and others perceive Gandhi as a great liberator who embraced a revolutionary approach to enhance the status of women. Malavika Karlekar argued that Gandhi developed the 'tradition' of a new feminity. Thus, the Gandhian woman was to use her traditional qualities to build a new positive image of action, resistance and change. The Gandhian method of self-questioning and analysis is now being picked up by the women's movement which denies the universality of incarcerating stereotypes' (1991). Madhu Kishwar contended that while in many ways, Gandhi's views on women and their role in society are not very different from those of the 19th century campaigners, in some other important ways he marked a crucial break from that tradition. The most vital difference is that he did not see women as objects of reform, as helpless creatures deserving charitable concern. Instead, he visualized them as active, self-conscious agents of social change. He is principally concerned with bringing about radical social reconstruction. One of the most lifelong contributions of Gandhi to the women's cause was that he gave it moral legitimacy. He helped to create a tradition and socio-political atmosphere in which even today; hardly anyone will publicly stand up and explicitly oppose women's fundamental rights or will deny them participation in politics. Gandhi's action, in bringing women self-respect in social life, in breaking down some of the prejudices against their participation in social and political life, in promoting an atmosphere of sympathetic awareness of their issues, goes far beyond his own views and pronouncements of women's role and place in society (1985).

Other scholars asserted that Gandhi endorsed the fact that women's 'primary function is to look after the home' (Shah 1984). He did not interrogate 'class based forms of the patriarchal oppression of women' (Sangari and Vaid 1989). Sujata Patel argued that Gandhi's 'reconstruction of women and feminity did not make a structural analysis of the origins and nature of exploitation of women. Actually, Gandhi used essentialist arguments to reaffirm his place as mother and wife in the household (l988). Many empirical studies have represented that many organizations which claim to follow the Gandhian path reinforce the traditional position of women which is subordinate to the male. Granting that Gandhi's views, scholars must examine why most of the Gandhian women organizations have stuck to Gandhi's position of the 1930s. Why do many, though not all, these organizations tend to feel closer to the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) philosophy on women?

Traditions and symbols are also competently used by the champions of status quo to mobilize women in the public area. Culture and traditions are conceptualized in a way to reinforce the women's position submissive to the male. Community rights based on traditional religious codes are emphasized over citizens' rights. Women are organized and mobilized to defend and disseminate traditional institutions with patriarchal authoritarian structures and value systems. Hindu women organizations supporting Hindutva ideology demand a Common Civil Code which has in practice a Hindu bias. The Mahila Morcha of BJP observed, 'We conceptually differ from what is termed as the women's liberation movement in the West.' We require a sort of readjustment in the social and economic setup. No fundamental change in values is desirable.

Women in India do not have comfortable place within the household, and the society. That has only to be re-established and reaffirmed (Kapur and Cossman 1995). For the champions of this position, tradition and values are derived from Brahminical scriptures rather than custom and usage. This is being done for the elimination of political opponents and the establishment of saffron power (Kapadia 2002).

It was documented in reports that The Sangh Parivar protected the sati system and formed the Rani Sati Sarva Sangha which canvassed and mobilized women for the celebration of sati. They stolen a slogan used by women's liberation movements: 'Hum Bharat ki nari hain, phool nahi, chingari hain' (We, the women of India, are not flowers but fiery sparks) (Akerkar 1995). Some of the leaders (both male and female) of the Parivar motivated their women members to be rebellious and challenge male supremacy. Amrita Basu observed that the message these leaders convey 'is that women can assume activist roles without violating the norms of Hindu womanhood or ceasing to be dutiful wives and mothers. The support of prominent men in religious and political life not only legitimates their roles but also bridges the rift between good citizens and devoted wives and mothers' (1999).

In theoretical studies, it is well shown that communal riots in different parts of the country provide enough evidences of women's participation on communal lines. These organisations use traditional symbols and idioms not only to reinforce patriarchal values but also successfully mobilize large numbers of women of one community against another Agnes 1994).

The riots dealt a severe shock to the principle that women have a separate existence away from their communal identity where people can debate problems of rape, divorce and maintenance on common platform. The women's movement does not stand in isolation and is an integral part of other social movements (Agnes 1994). Some reports by women's groups on communal riots during the post-demolition of disputed structure of Ayodhya period in 1992-93 in Ahmedabad, Surat and Bhopal also observes, 'Even the most committed work among vulnerable sections of women is not capable of enabling such women to liberate themselves from the pressures of divisive identity politics, without a conscious direction to confront this type of politics which is so inimical to women's rights and the movement for equality (Agnihotri and Mazumdar 1995).?

There is no repudiating that it does empower a specific and socially crucial group of middle class women, if not in absolute feminist direction then definitely in a relative sense. It helps previously homebound women to retrieve public spaces, to acquire a public identity, it confers upon them a political role and even leadership. It teaches the woman not to regard herself as merely feminine but as full-fledged citizen. It gives her access to serious intellectual cognition. It prepares the woman to be a citizen of an authoritarian Hindu rashtra, to crash secular, democratic politics (Sarkar 1991).

It is argued, Gender does not have an emancipatory potential that is 'natural' or 'innate'. Gender power grows from a sense of solidarity to being a force for itself only through intervention, contestation, and an exercise of and struggle over choices. Certainly, a feminist consciousness does not snuggle within a woman, ready to attain progressive self-realisation within a congenial environment, but is acquired through bitter conflicts and problems of choices within herself most of all (Sarkar and Butalia 1995).

Many scholars categorize women's movements according to their theoretical perspective. Neera Desai observed that 'the women's movement is the organized effort to achieve a common goal of equality and liberation of women and it presupposes sensitivities to crucial issues affecting the life of women. For a concerted action to move towards the objective, there has to be some unifying ideological thread for various units' (1988). On the basis of the ideological paradigm, Gail Omvedt (1978) organized women's movements into two types:

  1. Women's equality movements
  2. Women's liberation movements

First category may not directly challenge the existing economic or political or family structure, but rather aim at accomplishing an equal place for women in it, and at abolishing the most open remnants of feudal patriarchy, whereas the women's liberation movements directly challenge the sexual division of labour itself.

Jana Everett (1979) grouped women's movements on the basis of two different ideologies of feminism. They are

  1. Corporate Feminism claiming a larger role in politics for women on the grounds that they have a special contribution to make as women
  2. Liberal feminism, claiming that the rights of men should be extended to women on the grounds that women are equal to men and thus should have the same rights.

Kalpana Shah divides the women's movements into three categories on the basis of their approach towards elucidating women's unequal positions in the modern society and ways to liberate them from subjugation. They are:

  1. Moderate or Women's Rights Position
  2. Radical Feminism
  3. Socialist Feminism (1984)

Sangari and Vaid make a distinction of women's movements into two theoretical categories:

  1. Modernizing of patriarchal modes of regulating women.
  2. Democratizing of gender relations both at home and the work place.

These theorists stated that 'movements by working class and peasant women have a greater potential for democratizing patriarchal power relations than the modernizing movements' (1989).

In general, Women's movements in India are divided into periods (Kumar 1993). They are:

  1. Social reform movements during the freedom movement.
  2. The movements from 1947 till 1975.
  3. The movements emerging during and after the International Women's Decade.

Gail Omvedt also explained four kinds of movements related to women which can be called as women's movement and also distinguishes between them.

1) Movements where women participate: In these movements, men and women together fight some form of oppression. But the oppression due to sexual differentiation is not the focus of these movements. So Omvedt does not call such type of movements as women's movements.

2) Movements of women: There may be movements on general issues (slum improvement, price rise) where women are the only participants. But sole participation of women itself does not make them women's movements. In fact such movements may confirm the gender division of labour where men fight for wage rise and women fight against price rise, without challenging the male-dominated family and social structure.

According to Omvedt, these movements has a progressive role as they give women participants a chance to experience their own collective strength.

3) Women's reform movements: Reform movements include the series of movements on education for women, for abolition of Sati that took place in the pre-independence India. Although these issues were concerned with women, Omvedt refuses to call them women's movements because these movements did not challenge the fundamental structure of oppression in family and society.

4) Women's liberation movements: These are channelled by an ideology of fighting the sexual division of labour and patriarchy. They also act against the specific issue of women's oppression and move in the direction of liberation. Omvedt called these movements, as women's movements.

Women's movements do not see women's issues as subordinate to the social goals, but keep them in focus in relation to other social goals. As Agnes (1994) stated that the women's movement in India does not stand in isolation and it is an integral part of other social movements. the women's movement in India can be deliberated in terms of its two phases, the social reform phase; and freedom movement phase.

There is a discrepancy between pre-independence and post-Independence women's movements in India. The pre-independence movements were fundamentally about social reforms and initiated by men. Comparatively, the post-independence movement demanded gender equality, questioned gender-based division of labour and highlighted the oppressive nature of the existing patriarchal structure.

When evaluating the women initiatives in other countries, it is demonstrated that in the euphoria of post-independence, it was believed that women's status would radically improve along with other marginalized groups because they were now the masters of their destiny. However, when this was not achieved, there was an increase of various movements which raised a number of issues around diverse subjects such as land rights, wages, security of employment, equality. Some of the issues on which women got together were work, population policies, atrocities on women, including rape and liquor.

After India gained independence from British rule in 1947, the Congress party formed the Government. The government made certain attempts to fulfil the promises it had made to women during the pre-independence period, and also in the initial period after independence. While framing the Constitution of India, it included the very important aspect of equality of men and women in all provinces of life.

Article 14 of the Constitution of India states that, "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India".

Article 15 states that "The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, sex, place of birth or any of them." Article 15(3) states that "Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children".

Article 16 states that "There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State". According to Veena Majumdar, "The Constitutions radical departure from inherited social values represented to women of that generation its greatest intrinsic quality.

A number of administrative bodies were established for the creation of opportunities for women. Many women were inducted into the government. In the two decades that followed, 1950s and 1960s, there was a lull in the activities of feminists and in the women's movements in India. Women, however, started realizing that the constitutional promise of equality did not by itself resolve the equality questions, especially in a country as diverse as India, which comprises different religions and cultures.

The challenge of addressing inequality issue of women still exist. Women's organizations and feminists were unable to tackle the problems of women belonging to different religious groups. By the time, the feminist movement stepped into the 1970s, minority identities had begun to harden. This divisive environment affected Muslim women. Religious fundamentalists tried to place the responsibility of preserving religio-cultural identity on women. This identity condition, with women in the centre, diverted attention away from Muslim women's grim realities and the deviations from the actual Islamic position. Having been a secular movement, the women's movement found itself facing major challenge that it did not know how to handle. On the conceptual level, Indian Feminists were in a quandary: how to assimilate Muslim women's issues into broader feminist issues and, at the same time, defend their religious and cultural identity. This has been most obvious in the case of Muslim Personal Law. Placing Muslim women's issues within the confines of religion has further marginalized them, and created uncertainty among the secular feminists in addressing their problems for fear of hurting religious sentiments. The 1970s also witnessed the split of the Indian Left Front. This led to a number of doubts regarding their earlier analysis of revolution. New Leftist movements and ideas emerged. A few streams of feminist movements also developed, such as the Shahada movement, which was a Bhil tribal landless labourer's movement against the exploitation of the tribal landless labourers by non-tribal landowners. It began as a folk protest, and became militant with the involvement of the New Left party.

It has been said that women were more active in the movement, and as their aggressiveness increased, they demanded direct action on issues specific to them as women, such as physical violence and abuse as a result of alcoholism.

Women were more aware after independence. Groups of women would go from village to village, enter liquor dens and destroy liquor pots and containers. If any woman reported to be of physical abuse by her husband, all other women would surround him, beat him up and force him to apologize to his wife in public. The formation of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) was undoubtedly the first attempt made to form a Trade Union attached to the Textile Labor Union in Ahmedabad. It was formed in 1972 at the initiative of Ela Bhatt, and was an organization of women who were involved in different trades, but shared a number of common features and work experiences, low earnings, extremely poor working, harassment from those in authority, and lack of recognition of their efforts as socially useful work.

Major objective of SEWA is to improve the working conditions of women through a process of training, technical aid, legal literacy, collective bargaining, and to teach values of honesty, dignity and simplicity, the Gandhian goals to which SEWA subscribes. The anti-price rise agitations in Maharashtra were the direct result of the drought and famine conditions that affected rural Maharashtra in the early 1970s. These led to a sharp price rise in urban Maharashtra. In 1973, the United Women's Anti-Price Rise Front was formed to mobilize women against inflation.

There was mass women's movement for consumer protection and the demand was for the government to fix minimum prices and to distribute essential commodities. Large groups of women, between 10,000 and 20,000, would hold demonstrations at government offices, houses of Members of Parliament and merchants, and those who could not get out of their homes would express their support by beating thalis (metal plates) with lathis or belans (rolling pins). This movement spread to Gujarat, where it was called the Nav Nirman movement. In Gujarat, the movement started as a student's movement against spiralling costs, corruption and black marketeering. Soon, it became a great middleclass movement and thousands of women joined it. The methods included mock courts where judgments were passed on corrupt state officials and politicians, mock funeral processions, and processions to greet the dawn of a new era.

Women started participating in increasing numbers in the Naxalbari movement in West Bengal and the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh, the Navnirman youth movement in Gujarat, and the Chipko Movement. The Shramik Mahila Sangathan (Working Women's Organization), the Progressive Organization of Women, and the Mahila Samata Sainik Dal (League of Women Soldiers for Equality) were some of the organizations that emerged during this period.

Significant landmark for the liberation of women empowerment is mainly because of the U N consideration against maltreatments of women, UNO declared international women's decade (1975-1985), this declaration gave women a new trend in their viewpoint, and Indian women were influenced by this declaration and changed their perspective in movement.

One of the important movements was Anti Rape movement: Women's rights movement in India gained a national appeal with an anti-rape movement in 1980. Its origin lay in the excesses committed by the state repressive machinery during the Emergency Rule in India from 1975 to 1977. The anti-rape movement is a socio-political movement which is part of the movement whose objective is to struggle violence against the abuse of women. The movement seeks to change community attitudes to violence against women such as attitudes of entitlement to sex and victim blaming, as well as attitudes of women themselves such as self-blame for violence against them.

This movement happened when a new conceptualization of rape arose out of second wave Feminism. Rape was discussed as an issue of civil liberty. Anti-Rape Movement was popularized when some organization took the issue as primary concern to work out those organizations are Mahila Dakshita Samiti (MDS) , Stree Sangarsha Samiti (SSS) , Socialist Women's Group, Feminist Network Collective (FNC) ,Purogami Sangatana , Stree Sakti Sangatana , Pennurumi Iyyakum, and some AUTONOMEOUS Women's Organizations they fought and conducted mass rally regarding some dreadful rapes cases.

Some of the important rape cases that lead to mass rallies are the gang rape by police on a beggar woman called Lakshmi in Punjab, the cases of Rameezabee and Shakeelabee in Hyderabad raised public furry. Democratic rights organizations and journals also brought into light the cases of gang rape in Pathnagar, Rajahar , Agra , Bhojpur. It was in this time the highlighted Matura rape case came to light, Mathura was a 14 year old girl was summoned to the police station late in the night at Chandrapur near Nagpur in Maharashtra, two police constable raped her and session court of Nagpur alleged Mathura as "Loose of Morals" and declared police as innocent. The High Court convicted the rapists and lashed to seven and half year imprisonment. This gave birth to nationwide anti-rape demonstration. From every corner of the country, women's group demand for law amendments. One of the important organization named Freedom Without Fear Platform (FWFP) fought and the laws amend mended and came new Anti-Rape Law.

Another important women's movement was Anti Arrack Movement: It was one of the historic and most significant movement in the decade of 1990 by women. The women's movement against social evil, the movement was started in a small village called Dubagunta in Nellore district. The main reason for this movement was the successful literary mission of Nellore district. In Dubagunta village Rossamma was the leader who gave slogan 'Give up Drink and Wake up from Ignorance'. They stopped Arracks (local liquor) from making it. Anti-arrack community with 24 members blocked the roads conducted dharnas. Renuka Chowdary as the chairperson of Anti arrack community played a pivotal role in this movement. In 1st October 1993 arrack was prohibited because of the movement and 1st January 1995 selling liquor became offensive.

Anti-Dowry Movement was also breakthrough in the wave of women liberation. It emerged around 1979 continuing through till 1984. It was largely urban based yet nationwide in scope not just in rhetoric but also in the active participation of woman across classes in the country. In 1974 the committee on the status of women in India (CSWI) and later the parliamentary joint select committee found two things that one is female child election or identification and second is prevailing dowry. Dowry has spread to all castes, communities, religions, and regions. Dowry has to come to include the entire character of gift exchange between the two groups. By 1982 women's organization were insisting that majority of young bride death is due to the reason of dowry or suicide is because of the insisting dowry problems. Some organization like Mahila Daksataha Samiti, National federation of Indian Women, All India Democratic Women's Association, NARI RAKSHA SAMITI, came forward to oppose the system by possessing the dishonourable murder of Sudha Goul, in 1983 high court sentenced husband death penalty and mother in law, brother in law as life imprisonment. In 1984 government amended the dowry bill and further implementation was in 1985 October.

One of the major important movements was Dalit Women's Movement: The Dalit Mahila Samiti (DMS) is the organizational name for a movement of Dalit women in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). DMS is supported by Vanangana, a feminist NGO that has its roots in the Mahila Samakhya (MS) program, which was launched by the Government of India in the late 1980's to empower women through the popular education approach. The Mahila Samakhya staff were given a firm grounding in feminist thinking, and trained in grassroots mobilization and leadership based on feminist empowerment principles.

Dalit movements fight against untouchability, casteism and economic exploitation exists in India since 1920s. Dr. Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi and E.V.R. Periyar have made historical contributions towards the abolition of the 'monstrous crime of untouchability' (NCDHR, 2000). Despite the fact that India constitutionally abolished the practice of "untouchability" in 1950, the practice continues in the constitution's fifty second year and violence has become a defining characteristic of the abuse. The government needs to take strong steps to end untouchability (Hilaria Soundari, 2006).

In the end of eighties, dalit women progressively started arguing that their needs, difficulties and aspirations were rarely accounted for by both movements. They felt the need for a separate platform and emerged as a recognizable group of dalit women's movement in the early nineties. During this period, three Dalit Women's Organisations were created on national level. In 1987, Manorama, President of Women's voice, an organisation helped to organize the first national meeting of dalit women in Bangalore and it gave rise to the National Federation of Dalit Women in 1995 and that was protesting in Durban at the antiracism conference from August 31 to September 7, 2001.

It revealed and demanded that caste discrimination be considered and condemned on par with racism. The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), a national women's movement organized a convention on 'Dalit Women's Rights against Untouchability and Oppression' to support the causes of Dalit women (Hilaria Soundari, 2006). The 'National Conference on Dalit Women' held in 1999 brought out a report on Dalit Women's rights and status in India (NCDHR, 2000). The position of dalit women in Tamilnadu is dejected. Dalit women's movements have taken numerous efforts to improve their situation. AIDWA, took the initiative to organize women in different parts of India especially in Tamil Nadu (Bumiller, 1991).

In September 2000, a dalit women's conference was organized by Tamil Nadu Dalit Pengal Iyakkam (Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's Movement) mobilizing nearly 10,000 dalit women from all over the state. The conference deliberated various issues such as untouchability, caste atrocities, the impact of globalization on dalit women and violence against women during caste clashes. The conference inherited a separate identity for dalit women and made them aware of their rights (Hilaria Soundari, 2006). Tamil Nadu Dalit Pengal Iyakkam (Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's Movement) organised a state level meet in Erode on eradication of untouchability, in November 2001.

It necessitated a regulator committee to avert untouchability crimes, priority for dalits in education and job opportunities, an awareness campaign on human rights and distribution of 'panchami' land to dalit women (Hilaria Soundari, 2006). In the International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), Tamil Nadu Women's Forum occupies a significant position by doing the entire documentation of cases of discrimination and violence against dalit women.

The Dalit of Maharashtra launched the Dalit Panthar movement in the early 1970s. Panthar discards the dominant culture and identity for the oppressed classes especially for women. The defence for this movement was mainly from intellectual side by literature. Dalit fought against devadasi system, another incident was from Kerala under the leadership of C K Janu she fought for the justice of Wayanad adivasi people. There are some other Dalit women's movement like Anti Untouchable movement, Harijan movement, Dalit Liberation movement. Dalit women participated in these Movements. There are some associations that stand for the justice of Dalit women which are Rural Community Development Association, Rural Harijan Agricultural Development Society, and association of Poor.

Numerous NGOs and Organizations that support to women's movement in India are mentioned below:

  • Joint Women's programme
  • National Council of Women in India
  • Committee on the Portrayal of Women in Media
  • National Commission of Women
  • National federation if Indian Women
  • Diverse Women for Diversity
  • Kali for Women
  • Sahile
  • SEWA
  • Single women's Organization
  • Maitreye
  • Nav Jargon Women's Association
  • Madras women's association
  • Women's Indian Association
  • AP Mahila Samakaya

Social reform movements and women:

The origin of the modern women's movements in India is often stressed to the social reform movement within the Hindu fold in the last century. Renowned social reformers like Rammohan Roy, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Mahadev Govind Ranade, Behramji Malbari, protested against the dominant religious and social customs subjugating women (Chaudhari 1990). Their influence encouraged the British government to pass certain laws against the sati system, permitting women to remarry, abolishing the custom of child marriage. There were great efforts made to educate girls. Some of these issues continue to affect women even in this century. The difference is that till the turn of the last century, very little effort had been made by the reformers to mobilize women for participation in public life in general around the issues concerning them. Political rights, equal franchise and representation in legislatures for women were demanded by women leaders, who were supported by the Congress party (Shah 1984). Women's organizations, such as the Women's Indian Association and the All India Women's Conference (AIWC), came into existence in the 1920s to spread education among women. These organizations raised similar issues and carried out welfare programs during the post-independence period. Social reformers, as well as women's organisations, openly blustered women's issues which primarily affected Hindu ideology, based on the notion of Vedic times. Most social reformers believed in the separation of the roles played by the male and female in society. Though they were not against women working outside their homes, they were not in favour of independent careers for women in the wider world. They believed that women should not compete with men in all spheres (Basu 1976). The reformers 'continued to demand that women should be pure, firm and self-controlled. Those women's organisations which were offshoots of the social reform movements, share more or less the same ideology. Kalpana Shah witnessed that:

"The role of the AIWC in the struggle for the liberation of women is negative. In fact, through its programmes the Parishad (AIWC) strengthens the traditional role of a woman as a wife, housekeeper and mother. And despite wishful thinking of the moderate thinkers like Gandhi, woman's role as a wife is not considered to be equal to man's by women themselves. She is asked to perform some of the functions outside the four walls to assist her husband rather than to raise her head, to develop her dignity as a human being. Such women's organisations have become instruments in spreading an ideology which assigns inferior role to women. They strengthen revivalist values which are oppressive to women. These organisations have lost the zeal even to fight against oppressive social customs (1984)."

Jana Everett (1979) recognized five factors which have formed such reformist Indian women's movements. These are:

  1. The hierarchical caste system
  2. The Hindu religion
  3. The joint family system
  4. Islamic rule
  5. British colonialism

The caste system allows some mobility and tolerance for some sections of society. Everett argued that the Indian women's movement could be seen as an attempt by a previously excluded segment to enter the political system. These women do not challenge the hierarchical framework, they justify their demands on the grounds of restoring previously held rights because the Indian women's movement was composed of high-status individuals. It was represented a low level of threat to the stability of the system (1979). Though the Hindu religion assigns a subordinate status to the woman, the religious dualism of the male and female principle (Shakti-Shiva) and also the religious tradition of male-female equality in ancient Vedic times, provide a justification to Hindu revivalists for improving the status of women (Heimsath 1964).

The purdah system was also a major barrier for women liberation. This system kept women secluded from men and discouraged them from public participation. It gave women a certain sense of solidarity. This conceptual implications of purdah would tend to shape the goals of early women's movement leaders toward corporate ideals (improving women's performance of traditional female roles) and away from liberal ideals (achieving identical rights for men and women)' (Everett 1979). However, under British rule, liberal education spread in India. The educated upper-class males reinvigorated women's education to bridge the gap between the male and the female; and thus enabled wives 'to prepare their sons for western educated milieu'. Jayawardena (1982) argued that the national bourgeoisie emerged to fight simultaneously the imperialist powers, and internally, the feudal structure and philosophies.

The important national organizations:

- Bharat Mahila Parishad (1904)
- Bharat Stri Mahamandal (1909)
- Women's Indian Association (1917)
- National Council of Women in India (1925)
- All India Women's Conference (1927)
- Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust

Institutionalization of women's movements:

As mentioned earlier, there are massive women movements were active and still continued.

Women self help group: Self Help Group foundation is sincere effort to enable the poor women to participate in the process of development. Therefore, the role played by Self Help Groups in the field of empowering women particularly in the rural areas is being recognized. It offers not only economic prospects but also a change to learn new skills, make broader social contacts and experience. It creates an environment through positive economic and social policies for full development of women to enable them to realize their full potential. Therefore, the concept of Self Help Group certainly plays vital role in women development. Since the overall empowerment of women is crucially dependent on economic empowerment, these SHGs could generate income and employment to build their empowerment.

Nilakantha Mahila Kosha is the main figure of a women self-help group from Puran Panchayat of Balianta Block. It was created, with the help of a local NGO, after the Super Cyclone, in 1999. This eighteen member group, besides undertaking micro credit enterprise, shares all their problems and try to resolve it collectively. During the critical floods from 2001, the group faced one more challenge. It fortunately could be solved with techniques and information they acquired in the trainings promoted by the Disaster Campaign and Preparedness Programme. It was last year, when one of the villagers got drunk. He did not take proper care and went near the river to see the floodwater. Suddenly, he swayed and fell into the river and began to drown. The self-help group was informed in time and, with the help of the local youths, could save him. Nilakantha Mahila Kosha came to his rescue. The self-help group gave from their savings a financial assistance to the family. The group, after this experience, called a meeting with all the male members of the village to try to close all the liquor shops of the village. Also, the local police and the Panchayat the village level politician helped them in this mission. In addition, the villagers came forward to prepare a contingency plan for the natural disaster faced by them and this women self-help group took the lead in doing so. They organized male groups and started rehabilitation works of the community by repairing roads, monitored relief distribution and management of village affairs.

The Self Help Group system has proven to be very pertinent and effective in offering women the possibility to break gradually away from exploitation and isolation. In India, the creator in this field is Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA). Without the Grameen Model, SEWA was started in 1972.

The All India Women's Conference (AIWC):

AIWC was huge women organization. It was established in 1927 to function as an organization dedicated to the upliftment and betterment of women and children". The organization continues its task and has since expanded into various social and economic issues concerning women. In the 80th year of service to the nation, over 1,56,000 members in more than 500 branches of AWIC across the country carry on the work zealously with selfless dedication. AIWC is popular in the world over as a best organization working for women's development and empowerment.

AIWC Was registered in 1930 under Societies Registration Act, XXI of 1860. (No. 558 of 1930) The main objectives of the organization are:

- To work for a society based on the principle of social justice, personal integrity and equal rights and opportunities for all.
- To secure recognition of the inherent right of every human being to work and to achieve the essentials of life, which should not be determined by accident of birth or sex but by planned social distribution.
- To support the claim of every citizen to the right to enjoy basic civil liberties.
- To stand against all separatist tendencies and to promote greater national integration and unity.
- To work actively for the general progress and welfare of women and children and to help women utilize to the fullest, the Fundamental Right conferred on them by the Constitution of India.
- To work for permanent international amity and world peace.

At and international level, AIWC has:

  1. Consultative status with the United Nations (ECOSOC)
  2. Membership of UNICEF Executive committee for 10 years
  3. Membership of CONGO. Elected as Vice-President of CONGO for two terms
  4. A national Focal Point for International Networking for Sustainable Energy (INforSE)
  5. Membership of the World Renewable Energy Network (WREN)
  6. Membership of ENERGIA International Network on Gender and Energy
  7. Global Village Energy Partnership
  8. Membership of World Water Partnership
  9. Affiliated member of the International Alliance for Women (IAW)
  10. Affiliated to the Pan Pacific South-East Asian Women's Association (PPSEAWA)
  11. Affiliated to NIMROO Education Centre, Japan

Kali For Women: Zubaan:

Kali for Women was significant start-up feminist publisher in India. In 1984, Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon created Kali for Women, India's first feminist publishing house. Major objectives of this movement were to publish quality work, keep overheads low, and ensure that not only the content, but also the form of what they published met international standards. Within five years of its establishment, Kali had become self-sufficient. Over the years, Kali has emerged as one of the most significant publishing houses within Indian and internationally. Its name stands for quality, editorial attention, excellence of content, and, most importantly, for providing base for women's voices to be heard. Kali's goal is to increase the body of knowledge on women in the Third World, to give voice to such knowledge as already exists and to provide a forum for women writers. Apart from publishing English translations of significant fictional writings by women from various Indian languages, Kali also deals with issues of representation of women in the media, their social roles under right wing Hinduism and Islam, as a workforce in agriculture, and as victims and saviours of environmental degradation.

The Centre for Women's Development Studies:

The Centre for Women's Development Studies (CWDS) was established on 19th April 1980, in the middle of the International Women's Decade, by a group of men and women, who were involved in the preparation of the first ever comprehensive government report on the 'Status of Women in India' entitled 'Towards Equality' and who were later associated with the Women's Studies Programme of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). The Advisory Committee on Women's Studies of the ICSSR suggested the need for an autonomous institute to build on the knowledge already generated, but with a wider mandate and resources to expand its activities in research and action. The recommendation was accepted by the ICSSR, and communicated to the Women's Bureau of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Government of India. After few months, under the leadership of late Prof. J.P. Naik, the CWDS was registered under the Societies' Registration Act, 1860 in New Delhi and started functioning since May 1980, with a small financial grant from the Vikram Sarabhai Foundation, under the Chairpersonship of Dr. Phulrenu Guha and Dr. Vina Mazumdar as the Director.

These organizations took up issues such as women's education, abolition of evil social customs (purdah, child marriage) equality of rights and opportunities and women's suffrage. Some women leaders with the support of the Congress party, demanded right of franchise and representation in legislatures.

It can be believed that Indian women's movements are operated for some major objectives namely, liberation or uplift of women, i.e., reforming social practices so as to enable women to play a more important and constructive role in society; and equal rights for men and women, i.e., extension of civil rights enjoyed by men in the political, economic and familial spheres to women also.

Globalizing Women's Movements:

With the process of globalization of the economy and massive growth of international trade associations and governmental organizations, women have found it increasingly useful to organize across national boundaries. The United Nations has vital role in making women's movements international and in defining women's rights as human rights. Women have used the opportunities provided by the four U.N. World Conferences on Women (in 1975, 1980, 1985, and 1995), the official ones and the alternative NGO forums, as arenas in which they could set goals, plan, network, and inspire one another to continue their work (West 1999). They have seized upon the various U.N. accords, especially CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), as bases for demanding national changes.

Women have established regional networks, such as Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) to implement U.N. policies and other regional human rights charters, including the African Charter for Human and People's Rights. In these efforts the Centre for Women's Global Leadership, directed by Charlotte Bunch, acted as a coordination centre for international women's human rights campaigns. These have focused on sex trafficking, issues of health and reproductive rights, female circumcision and female genital mutilation, and violence against women. Regional meetings, such as the biannual Encuentros held in various Latin American cities to define the issues of Latin American women's movements, have been a source of inspiration and strength for many feminist leaders (Sternbach et al. 1992).

In 1984, meeting in India of women from different regions of the South led to the formation of Development Alternatives for Women for a New Era (DAWN) to focus on sustainable development to address the worsening of women's living standards as they relate to international lending policies (Stienstra 2000). The first WAAD Conference, held in Nigeria in 1992, brought together Women in Africa, and the African Movement. Conference coordinator Obioma Nnaemeka (1998) affirmed, "Our faith in possibilities will clear our vision, deepen mutual respect, and give us hope as we follow each other walking side-by-side." Such efforts to the success of grass-roots women's movements, is harder to sustain in more distant and bureaucratic international women's movement organizations; but it is vital.

To summarize, Women's movements are planned efforts made by women's associations to bring about impartiality and freedom for women. The status of women has been the main concern of many reform movements before and after independence. It is well known that The Indian society is innumerable society with caste, religion, ethnicity and gender as some of the important dimensions influencing politics and the development of the society. It is argued by many scholars that gender has been a key issue in the history of the nation since the beginning of British colonial rule over India. (Sen, 2002). Gender, and the term "women" has been used to both front and confront issues of equality in the society. The colonial rulers used gender, and they considered as vicious and barbaric patriarchal practices towards women, as a justification for the rule forced on India. The gender issue has been the basis of women's movements in India mobilizing against violence and discrimination, and for improved living conditions and their human rights, amongst other Leaders of the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj were concerned with issues like sati, remarriage, divorce, female education, purdah system, polygamy, and dowry. Some researchers have scrutinized the role of women in political independence movements at micro level. After independence, an energetic although uneven women's movement has taken shape in India. Women from diverse castes, classes and communities have participated in the movement along with activists drawn from a variety of political trends, parties and groups belonging to various philosophies making the movement highly heterogeneous. It is reviewed that Women's movement in India especially after post-Independence formed a new type of challenging movement of social problems and struggle for the social equality.