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Dr Vibhuti Patel oration on "Chnaging Nature of Gender Politics in India"

Oration on the occasion of 160th Birth Anniversary by University of Mumbai at Sophia Poly technique on 9-12-2016.
The first wave feminism, the phase was marked by the first generation of English educated women’s struggles against child marriage, widow burning, female infanticide and efforts for education for women and voting right. Its gender politics touched only women from upper caste and upper class. In the second wave of feminism that began in the mid- 1970s, the educated middleclass women who were actively involved in different social movements of students, youth, workers, peasants, tribals, Dalits and civil liberties played central role. They abhorred paternalism of benevolent males and upper-class women’s ‘charitable’ and ‘philanthropic’ social work and declared themselves as fighters for women’s rights. Here the gender politics was focused on ‘women’s agency’ and women to seen not merely as passive and mute victims of discrimination, injustice and exploitation but women as active agents challenging gender based discrimination and gender violence in all spheres of their lives. The third wave essentially covers perspectives from those marginalized or excluded from previous 'waves' of feminism – Dalit women, tribal women and women of colour, women from the post-colonial, young women, differently abled women, women from ethnic and religious minorities and women with alternate sexuality. This wave has deepened the discourse of discontent. 'Third Wave' acknowledges the benefits of second wave feminism and provides the world-view of a young feminist from the global South.

Current stage of Gender Politics is informed by a third wave of feminism whose ideological moorings lay in post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality. Here disciplines such as literature, politics, art, cultural criticisms, history and sociology have played dominant role in defining gender politics. They critique male-female binaries that are seen by them as artificial constructs created to maintain the power of dominant groups. Proponents of third-wave feminism claim that it allows women to define feminism for themselves by incorporating their own identities into the belief system of what feminism is and what it can become through one's own perspective. Contemporary gender politics encompasses macro-micro and meso realities in all spheres, economy and polity, jurisprudence and policy making, local-national-regional-global governance.

While the diversity in the social fabric of India has historically seen continuities and contestations, interactions between different social segments have increasingly come to be mediated through socio-economic processes, where the needs and principles of a marketized economy prevail. This has been all the more so apparent since the 1990s. While the years after independence saw significant attempts to negotiate these rights in different spheres with the aim of keeping alive the guiding principles as laid out in the Constitution; current policy frameworks and paradigms of development pose serious challenges to these efforts.

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Comment by Prof. Vibhuti Patel on May 21, 2018 at 8:39pm

Critique of Environmental Policies and Action for Livelihood Concerns

Economics of Gender and Development sees a connection between the exploitation and degradation of the natural world and the subordination and oppression of women. Ecofeminism emerged in the mid-1970s alongside second-wave feminism and the green movement. Ecofeminism brings together elements of the feminist and green movements, while at the same time offering a challenge to both. It takes from the green movement concern about the impact of human activities on the non-human world, and from feminism the view of humanity as gendered in ways that subordinate, exploit and oppress women. It is both an activist and academic movement which see critical connections between the domination of nature and the exploitation of women. Ecofeminist activism grew during the 1980s and 1990s among women from the anti-nuclear, environmental and women’s rights movements (Mies and Shiva, 2014). Rural and tribal women are demanding land rights in panchayats and also fighting legal battles (Velayudhan, 2009).

Livelihood concerns of women such as fuel, fodder, water, animal care, agriculture, kitchen gardening, food security ad food sovereignty are taken up by feminists not only at the policy levels but also in terms of mobilization of women and formulation of successful models by rural and tribal women’s collectives. E.g. Navdanya in Uttaranchal and Annadana Soil and Seed-savers in Bangalore and Asha Kachru’s efforts of organizing women farmers.

"Ecofeminists say 'no more waiting'... We are in a state of emergency and must do something about it now... around the world, economies, cultures and natural resources are plundered, so that 20 percent of the world's population (privileged North Americans and Europeans) can continue to consume 80 percent of its resources in the name of progress.” Our aim is to go beyond this narrow perspective and to express our diversity and, in different ways, address the inherent inequalities in world structures which permit the North to dominate the South, men to dominate women, and the frenetic plunder of ever more resources for ever more unequally distributed economic gain to dominate nature…Everywhere, women were the first to protest against environmental destruction. It became clear to us, activists in the ecology movements, that science and technology were not gender neutral. As with many other women, we began to see that the relationship of exploitative dominance between man and nature (shaped by reductionist modern science since the 16th century) and the exploitative and oppressive relationship between men and women which prevails in most patriarchal societies, even modern industrial ones, were closely connected.”

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