by : Sarah Sinhal
With centuries of mass struggles and mass movements, the feminist movement in India has evolved over the ages, changing shape and form as per the era required. From the beginning stages in the 1850s, to modern day feminism, the women of India have played major roles in almost every struggle. Why is it then, that women are sidelined throughout our history books? The first wave of feminism in india was during 1850 and 1915, when colonial rule first began. This venture into the modern world opened up possibilities across India. Interestingly enough, the beginning steps of feminism in India were taken up by men, to scour India from social evils- like sati and child marriage along with regulating the age of consent and ensure property rights by the way of legal intervention. Prominent figures like Ram Mohan Roy, who were leading these movements, were even disowned from their families, as he spoke up about the atrocities committed against women.
People were afraid to change and these movements were to a certain degree, derailed by the emergence of nationalist movements in India. The second phase, from 1915-1947 is marked from the raging political movements in India, until independence. Women were an intrinsic part of the nationalist movements, from extensive involvement in the raging movements, to the formation of many political parties and groups. The 1920s highlighted women's educational issues, developed livelihood strategies for women, along with various political enterprises. These political parties helped evolve consciousness about women's roles and rights in independent India. However, the state acquired a patronizing role towards women; treating them as 'subpar'. This ultimately did work out in their favor as women did not have to struggle for basic rights as they did in the West but instead, received assistance, to 'function as equals'. Modern day feminism, focuses more on underlying patriarchal behaviorisms. They began engaging more and more women to join workforces and began challenging inequalities which included the wage gap and restrictions on women joining high-skill job posts. Modern day feminism does not only restrict itself to the rights and struggles of women, and has now become an umbrella term, protecting those in the LGBTQIA+ community too, along with many more castes and tribes. It has become a more underlying movement, with protests and rallies held whenever required. It is a struggle not for one, but for all.