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Feminism in India - History and Present Times

The term Feminism is misunderstood as an ideology that aims to uplift
only the women by bashing the male in the society. However, it is not true as
the word Feminism means an ideology that fights for the upliftment for women
and getting them the same political, social, and economic rights as the men in
the society. The concept of feminism is not new but can be seen in the history
of the world where women had fought for getting the political rights as well as
have proven to be as great of a ruler for their empire as a man could have

Feminism is separated into three waves:

  • First wave feminism – beginning in the mid 19th century – when
    reformists began to speak in favor of women’s rights and making reforms in
    education and customs involving women.

  • Second wave feminism – from 1915 to Indian Independence, when Gandhi
    incorporated women’s movement into Quit India Movement and independent women’s
    organisation began emerging.

  • Third wave feminism – started post independence, which focuses on fair
    treatment of women at workplace, home, allowing them political rights etc.

Another misconception regarding feminism is that a feminist is only a woman.
However, it is also not true as many of the men also identify themselves as
feminist and it is evident in the history that many of the social reformists,
fighting for the rights of the women, are male. Men like Raja Ram Mohan Roy who
fought against the social evils like Sati, Polygamy and Child Marriage; Ishwar Chandra
Vidyasagar who championed the cause of Widow Remarriage; DD Karve who worked to
eradicate the bias against widows are considered to be feminists as they worked
for the social and cultural upliftment for the women. Mahadev Govind Ranade
founded the Widow Marriage Association in 1861while Behram Malabari started a
campaign against Child Marriage and asked the legislation to prevent it.

Even though the concept is debatable, but is believed that a Fourth Wave
of Feminism began around 2012, with the focus on issues like sexual harassment,
body-shaming, rape culture, etc. After the Nirbhaya case, there was a spark of
protest in the country seeking for stronger laws against rapes and to ensure
the safety of women in the society. Around the world, women are at a greater
risk of sexual harassment at work or at home. There is also a constant debate
about the fact that most of the times women are not subjected to equal pay, even
though they have the same position in the company, as compared to their male

Indira Jaisingh, the first woman to be appointed as the Additional Solicitor
General of India, played an instrumental role in the framing of the Domestic Violence Act (2005). Meenakshi
Arora’s led to the framing of The Vishakha
which were later
included in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place
Act (2013)
The movement to secure women’s rights in India has come a long way and
thanks to the fierce personalities throughout the history as well as the in the
present times the fight against the patriarchal notions is seeing a lot of

A lot of scholars have claimed that western influence has paved the way
for the growth of feminism in India. However, it is not true as women of
different countries had different needs. The Indians did not have to borrow the
concept of feminism from the west as our own history has given the evidence
that women have asserted themselves in various ways and broke free from the
existing notions that did not allow them the freedom in the society. However,
the patriarchal documentations ignored the rebellions by the women and there is
no record found for the same; but it cannot not be ignored that they were
present and it is our duty to remember those rebellions.


The present day feminism in India has the following trends –

  • There is a
    genuine partnership and collaboration among women and men, especially youth, to
    fight for gender equality.

  • As there is an
    increase in the economic liberty for women, it is becoming easy to fight the
    existing stereotypes.

  • The wants of the
    women are also changing – from economic and political rights to social and
    sexual rights.

  • Women are
    negotiating harder for their space to expand and are not leaving it without a
    tough fight.

  • At last, the
    internet and the revolution of information sharing is also helping women from
    various communities as it gives them a bigger platform to voice out their
    opinions and demand for equal rights.

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