There was some serious noise in the feminist world in 2015 – movements went beyond ideas and took a journey of their own. From menstruation taking centrestage on social media to films getting gender sensitive with bold scripts about how India treats its women. Sakshi Sirari brings you the headlines that promise to change things in India for the sisterhood.
PERIOD PROUD WITH #HAPPYTOBLEED
When the Chief of Sabarimala Devoswom Board said that women should not be allowed to enter temples by virtue of the fact that they menstruate, women in India responded through an aggressive online campaign called #HappyToBleed. Initiated by a college student it took the country by storm. Men too joined the movement – that was primarily driven by social media – through hashtags like #SmashPatriarchy.
SHE RAN A MARATHON ON HER PERIOD
In London, Kiran Gandhi ran the marathon in August 2015 without a tampon on her period. The 26 year old let her period flow freely during the 26-mile race in a bid to raise awareness about people who have no access to feminine products.
She wanted to decimate any notions that a woman’s period is a disability. She went on to complete the marathon and secure a winning position as well.
SPOTTING ON INSTAGRAM
Toronto-based Indian origin photographer Rupi Kaur put up a picture of herself in bed, with her trouser spotted with period blood. Her instagram post was taken down citing the fact that it was against community guidelines. This took social media by a storm and global media did many pieces highlighting the issue. Rupi’s effort was only to normalize this painful experience that women go though every month.
“I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be ok with a small leak when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified, pornified, and treated less than human.”
A MOVEMENT CALLED FEMINIST RANI
When feminist Rani was started by SheThePeople.TV in Mumbai in October 2015, it was just a bunch of women who had come together to understand feminism in the contemporary sense and talk about the things it does to them in everyday life. With every passing monthly edition, the idea strengthened, voices grew stronger, women talked candidly about challenges and solutions to the way India treats its women. The why, what and how broke down the archaic conversations of feminism. Youth icons shared their stories, making Feminist Rani real – from Comedian Aditi Mittal, Author Kiran Manral, Firebrand journalist Rana Ayyub to Rega Jha of Buzzfeed and many others shared their experiences, their stories, their feminism. Follow Feminist Rani here and join us the next time (Watch Episodes of Feminist Rani)
FIRST ALL WOMEN CONTINGENT @ REPUBLIC DAY PARADE
The special thing about the 2015 Republic Day was not the presence of US President Barack Obama, but the fact that it saw India’s first ever women’s contingent in the parade. It was a 154 women congregation, led by 25 year old Captain Divya Ajith Kumar. It was an inspiring sight for young girls and women, who now dream of being a part of the club. (Read Full Story)
Later in the year the Indian AirForce said it was set to hire women for combat in its force. More details here
INDIA’S FIRST TRANSGENDER JUSTICE BOARD
Kerala became India’s first state to take affirmative action towards gender neutrality by setting up Transgender Justice Boards at state and district levels. This was the best decision made my the government in terms of gender, as the choice of sexuality belongs to the individual and s/he has full government support. Kerala is way ahead than other states in so many things, its going to take a while for the country to catch up.
FILMS EMBRACED FEMINISM
India’s first feminist film, Angry Indian Goddesses was released. To me it was an accurate portrayal of the real, modern day woman and the everyday problems she faces because of her gender. It was an eye opener for many. YashRaj Films also started with a web series called ‘The Man’s World’, which pictured a world where gender roles were reversed. Not only did the film see cameos from various Bollywood Celebrities, it was very well received by the masses that have access to the internet (Read Full Story)
‘India’s Daughter’, a documentary on the horrific Nirbhaya Rape case was made but later banned in the country. It captured the problem of rape at various levels – structural and cultural. Though it was banned, many people got access to it through the internet and it opened up an all new dialogue on how individuals can act to curb rape. The whole controversy was instrumental in breaking silences on the subject of rape.
NATIONALIZED WOMEN’S HELPLINE
A 24 hour helpline for women in distress was launched. So far, it has been implemented in 10 states of India. Women’s safety just got serious. And the government woke up to it. Though we are far from making public places safe for women, it’s certainly a start.
BETI BACHAO, BETI PADHAO
The most widely received program for educating the girl child, where the government incentivizes education for the parents, by rewarding them with money, free insurance and most of all, access to education. This turned out to have a successful start, especially in many parts of rural India.
Why should women be restricted in hostels after sunset? When a bunch of women in the nation’s capital Delhi decided to rise against patriarchal behavior to restrict women in their hostels after a certain of the day, the Pinjra Tod movement was born. In a silent protest against the new (read sexist) UGC guidelines, women just chose to stay out of the hostel till late, taking to the streets. It was a great initiative, it brought people together, it received widespread support from eminent personalities from all walks of life, including Kavita Krishnan and Shashi Tharoor. Youth understands feminism, check!(More on this story)
So from education to youth to sports, politics and media- it was a great year for feminism. Women were able to achieve the extraordinary and grab their share of limelight to put across their stories and share their voices. At the same time, educating many others of the life and times of women in India. Women’s representation in every sector has been very low, and such movements have certainly impacted the preconceived notions of things around gender in India.