Why Gender Matters in Activism: Feminism and Social Justice Movements

By  Manjima Bhattacharjya, Jenny Birchall, Pamela Caro, David Kelleher, and Vinita Sahasranaman

Article can be found here

Social justice movements are able to generate deep and lasting changes that policy change and development interventions alone cannot achieve. However, in many cases, women’s rights and gender justice remain low on the priorities of movements, even when women are active members. This article offers a preview of three case studies developed as part of the BRIDGE Cutting Edge programme on gender and social movements, which aims to inspire and support the inclusion of gender equality principles and practices in social justicemobilisation. The case studies feature the global human rights movement (with a focus on Amnesty International), the CLOCVia Campesina movement in Latin America, and the Occupy movement in the United States. We summarise some of the strategies each social movement has used to encourage the integration of women’s rights and gender justice in both internal and external-facing work; discuss some of the challenges that the movements have faced in implementing these strategies; distil common lessons from the three experiences; and end by suggesting some prerequisites for positive gender transformation in social justice movements.


लिबास का चयन और सहजता - Reena Khatoon

First published on In Plainspeak

पहनावे से जुडी नैतिक पुलिसिंग व लैंगिक भेदभाव को लेकर एक लंबा इतिहास रहा है। जहां पुरुषों के लिये उनका पहनावा उनके सामाजिक स्टेटस को दिखाता है वहीँ दूसरी ओर महिलाओ के लिये उनके पहनावे को लेकर मानदंड एकदम अलग है! जोकि महिलाओं के पहनावे के तरिके की निंदा करते हुए एक व्यक्तिगत पसंद पर नैतिक निर्णय बनाते हैं! भारत में कई राज्यों में महिलाएँ या लडकियां कुछ खास तरह के कपड़े नहीं पहन सकती है या फिर मैं ये कहूंगी कि ऐसे कपडे जिसमें वो ज्यादा आकर्शित लगती हों! जबकि पुरुष वही तंग जींस पहन सकते हैं पारदर्शी शर्ट पहनते हैं और धोती पहन सकते हैं!

Abortion and the Right to Health - Souvik Pyne

First published on the ASAP Blog

Right to health is a utopian dream where everyone deserves to be healthy and has the right to live in an environment which ensures a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not just an absence of disease or infirmity. In the context of abortion, it implies to eliminate all predisposing factors, which lead to unsafe abortion; such as lack of knowledge about pregnancy and contraception, lack of accessible, safe and affordable abortion services and post abortion care.

Though addressing these issues and progressive efforts to fend off patriarchal influences over women’s sexuality and reproduction should remain as the vision, a more immediate endeavour should be to ensure the right to comprehensive healthcare which vis a vis abortion translates into access to safe abortion services devoid of all barriers and stigma routinely faced by women across the globe like legal (restrictive laws, other’s opinion/authorization), physical (poor availability and uneven distribution), social (abortion stigma for both seeker and provider), financial (procedural and associated costs).

Abortion enables women to have control over their bodies and in order to make this a reality it is imperative to strive for the right to abortion within the ambit of the right to health as a fundamental women’s health right.

सिनेमा, संगीत और सहमति पर बातचीत - Manak Matiyani

First published on In Plainspeak

कुछ समय पहले सोशल मीडिया पर रोबिन थक  के गीत ‘ब्लर्ड लाइन्स’ और उसके विडियो के बारे में बड़ी चर्चा हो रही थी जिसने लोकप्रिय सांकृतिक कथानकों में सहमति और शोषण के बीच की रेखा को धूमिल कर दिया था। 

इस चर्चा ने मुझे हमारे उन देसी गीतों के बारे में सोचने पर मजबूर कर दिया जो विवादस्पद रहे हैं।

नो सेक्स इन ऑफिस – अगर प्यार सच्चा है तो अलग बात है! - Reena Khatoon

This article was first published in TARSHI's magazine, In Plainspeak

इन प्लेनस्पिक के इस काम व यौनिकता के मुद्दे को सुनने के बाद पहला विचार मन में आया कि मैं कार्यस्थल पर होने वाली यौन हिंसा के बारे में लिखूंगी। फिर ऑफिस में रोमांटिक रिश्तों व लव स्टोरी के बारे में याद आया जो हम सब अपने काम के आसपास देखते या सुनते आये हैं और यह बॉलीवुड फिल्मों का भी पसंदीदा मुद्दा रहा है। मुझे ये बड़ा ही रोमांचक लगा, और जब मैंने लिखना शुरू किया तो एक सवाल मेरे दिमाग में आया – क्या कार्यस्थल पर इस मुद्दे से सम्बंधित कोई नीति है?

Right to information and Safe Abortion - Souvik Pyne

This article was originally published on The ASAP Blog

Abortion is a universal phenomenon occurring throughout recorded history and presumably even beyond that. Thus, abortion is quite a common phenomenon across the globe. When performed safely, it rarely has any complication but when done unsafely, often leads to much morbidity and mortality (every 8 minutes a woman dies of unsafe abortion related complications in the world). Knowledge about safe abortion and contraception along with sex education plays a crucial role in determining the level of interventions applied to avoid unwanted pregnancies and safety of the method women resort to when the need of abortion arises. The entitlement to proper information in this regard has been bolstered in the ICPD (International Conference on Population & Development) Program of Action.

Now let us look into some of the underlying principles for right to information.

First, is the principle of neutrality. It reflects the non-judgemental stance about the issue irrespective of social or legal environment. This is essential in restrictive settings. In liberal settings, the information should emphasize the legality as well its safety and efficacy.

Second, is the humanistic principle. It reflects the concern for health and life beyond any moral or legal implications. This aspect needs to be maximised irrespective of legal status of abortion.

Third, is the pragmatic principle. It implies two dimensions- it is unrealistic to eliminate the need for abortion; safe abortion is a time tested cost-effective intervention. This too needs to be focussed irrespective of the legality in a setting.

Fourth, is the human rights principle. It mandates a state responsible to address issues which create or exacerbate situations which are harmful to health as well as look into the effective implementation of the interventions. In a restrictive setting, it can support ‘harm-reduction’ models but in the long run needs to reiterate to eliminate the causality also i.e. the illegality of abortion.

Thus, right to information is a very strong tool to empower women about ways to control their fertility and enable them to make an informed decision, which is very crucial. It is also the state’s responsibility to ensure realisation of this vital right in its enactment so that it doesn’t end up being only an empty rhetoric.


Erdman, J. N. (2011). Access to information on safe abortion: a harm reduction and human rights approach. Harvard Journal of Law & Gender34, 413-462.

Abortion in India: ‘Legal yet unavailable’ - Souvik Pyne

Originally published on YouthAgainstAbortionStigma

India is one of the pioneering countries which legalised abortion way back in 1971 and the law is often referred to as being liberal. Abortion is legal up to 20 weeks of gestation under a number of clauses. But one must consider the liberal nature of the law with a pinch of salt, as the statements in the law are very subjective to interpretation. With no words changed, the law can become restrictive as well.

Unlike most countries where legalisation was pushed by strong feminist movements, in India it was mainly brought in by two major groups – pro-population control demographers and medical professionals. This led to the lack of a rights perspective in the law and women’s autonomy over their fertility not being central to the abortion debate. The inherent medical bias means that health providers are the deciding authority. They often put a condition on an abortion service which is not actually required by law – such as only providing abortion if the woman accepts a contraceptive method (usually sterilisation or an IUD), or if she has her husband’s consent. Despite not being law, health providers have been known to deny abortion services without a husband’s consent, in order to avoid any backlash from the husband at a later date.

The societal stigma around the issue of abortion being linked to immorality makes it more difficult to talk freely on the issue. Religious influences also play a significant role.

Ignorance and myths regarding abortion among the masses is fairly prevalent. Misdirected campaigning to curb pre-natal sex selection has further muddled understanding about the legality of abortion and has adversely impacted second trimester abortion provision.

All these issues contribute towards deterring access to safe and legal abortion services. Hence, India’s abortion situation translates to ‘legal yet unavailable’.