The origin of the women’s movement can be traced back to the 19th century through the social reformation movement. Women’s movements in India have born out of the historical circumstances and social milieu which provoked the new thought of critical thinking among the people. It led to the questioning of social practices, the authenticity of the legislations that existed in the pre-colonial period.
A remarkable shift has been seen from time to time in the change of status of women. Each and every movement which took place brought some shift in the status of women and created an impact in society in both positive as well negative ways. An attempt has been made to explain the revolutions which changed society’s view of women. From the colonial period to the post-colonial period as well as after the 1970s, everything has been dealt with in detail with keeping in mind the pointers such as the Status of women, Movements that changed India.
WOMEN’S MOVEMENT IN COLONIAL PERIOD
Women’s movement in the colonial period can be divided into two types:
· Social Reform Movements:
The inception of the women’s movement can trace its origin from the social reform movement in the 19th century. The British rule in India brought the transformation in Indian Society and Economy. The new revenue land settlements and infrastructure facilities such as roads, railways constructed on the order of Britishers led to a significant change in Indian society.
Due to the changes that were gradually occurring in Indian society, the need for educated personnel was felt. It resulted in the establishment of Western educational institutions whose main purpose was to impart modern education. As a result, a new class of intelligentsia emerged. These people became the pioneers of the democratic movements in social, political, economic, and cultural aspects.
· Nationalist Movements:
As a result of 19th Century Social Reform Movements, the social evils were eliminated and women were given opportunities to uplift themselves. They were also given the opportunity to earn education, dignity, and respectable life as well as actively participate in the movements. The expansion of women’s education led to the increase in the number of educated English women's classes by the 19th century. As a result, their presence was felt in the political activities.
With this, the second phase of the women’s movement began. The characteristics of this second phase were that the women belonging to the middle class started taking part in political activities. Till 1919, the national movements only saw the participation of the urban upper class. But with the advent of Mahatma Gandhi, mass participation started to take place. In this phase, political developments and women’s participation went hand in hand.
From its inception, the Indian Women’s Movement approached the suffrage campaign as a measure to achieve social reform. The leaders were of the belief that enfranchisement of the women would mean additional support for the reformation of strong legislation. Mahatma Gandhi launched the Satyagraha movement in 1919 against the provocative enactment of the Rowlett Act. Processions were carried out by even. A few numbers of women were also jailed.
WOMEN’S MOVEMENT IN THE POST-COLONIAL PERIOD
The period after Indian independence was known as the post-colonial period. Just after the Independence, India had to face a variety of problems. Years of colonial domination had destroyed indigenous crafts and had depleted our natural resources. The growth of Industrialization, Technology, and lack of mobility, etc. resulted in the inability of women to cope up with the new emerging order. During the period, social reformists tried to channelize the Indian society by introducing the constitutional and legal provisions and by providing equity to all the citizens, irrespective of their gender, caste, sex, religion, race, etc.
A few of the prominent movements of the post-colonial time are:
· Chipko Movement
The movement traces its origin back to the small hilly village Advani in the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttar Pradesh. The illiterate Adivasi women led this movement in December 1972. The belief regarding forests that they only meant timber was challenged. The emphasis was laid on their role in making soil, water, and air purification.
· Anti Arrack Movement
The Anti Arrack Movement was one of the significant movements in the 1990s of women of Andhra Pradesh. It was a magnum war against the social evil of alcohol drinking in Indian history. Women of Andhra Pradesh played a dominant role in banning the consumption and sale of distilled liquor. It was not just a movement against the elimination of liquor but also to save their lives and culture. These rural women wanted to protect the degeneration of their families through the damage caused by the men and the children.
WOMEN’S MOVEMENT IN INDIA SINCE THE 1970s
After the Independence, the main concern for a few decades was the overall growth of the economy. The other decade witnessed an increase in concern for equity and poverty alleviation. Gender issues subsumed in poverty and there was no specific program aimed at women. Till the 1970s, women did not take issues for their empowerment, but after the 1970s women started significantly participating in activities that were directly related to their empowerment. They questioned the welfare approach to women and incorporated an empowerment participatory approach.
There were some specific movements that took place in public at a large. These are the most highlighted movements in the history of India. The unique features of these movements were that those issues were put forward which were considered to be insignificant by the opposite gender. It was intended to create a society where everyone can exercise their rights without fear and live with dignity. The patriarchal society had made women fight for their basic rights. These movements have been explained as follows:
· The #METOO Movement
In 1997, Tarana Burke desired that she could say “Me Too” to a girl named heaven after listening to her sexual abuse story. The origin of the Me Too movement began in the year 2006. The movement began to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of sexual abuse in society.
Oppressive rules were imposed on women in the name of protecting them. This gave rise to the movement PinjraTod. Hostel rules were discriminatory towards women. After the summer break of 2015, Jamia Millia University, a University in Delhi issued a notice to female students directing them that they can stay outside the campus after 8 pm. After this PinjraTod movement began to grow widely in the city.
· I will go out
On the advent of New Year 2017, celebrations turned into a nightmare when the news of mass molestation that happened in Bangalore and Karnataka on the eve of New Year spread on News channels, Newspapers, etc. Abu Azmi, a politician from Maharashtra, ignited the anger in women by blaming the women getting molested in the public. The women were not ready to take the blame on themselves for the celebrations.
Revolutions are the indication of the change in society. Gradually, the outlook of society towards the women has begun to change. The enormous amount of change has got to see in society. Status has yet not fully changed but it is gradually taking a turn. I would here like to quote Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He once said,
‘You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women’.
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2. Sujata. "Chapter 4." In mapping the women's movement in India, by Sujata, 23. Delhi: ASF publishing, 2004.