Marginalised voices within the women’s movement.
How open and inclusive has the women’s movement been to the needs of minority women, and those on the margins? Does it have a majoritarian character? Over the years, activists have had to confront many questions of this nature. A major challenge has come from women mobilizing on the basis of same-sex identity who feel that their voices have been silenced, and their concerns and issues ignored.
Posters asserting the rights of sexual minorities are few and far between and this one, in several languages, has been widely used.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code makes homosexuality an offence. This poster was used in a public demonstration jointly organised by the West Bengal Campaign Coordination Committee and Sappho for Equality.
Another criticism comes from women with disabilities: this was particularly strong at women’s conferences where, until recently, no particular attention has been paid to discussing the issue of disability, or even ensuring access.
Women with disabilities are a particularly marginalised group and the battle for their rights has only recently been joined.
“You are so helpless,” says the woman. The girl replies, “You are always making a mountain out of a molehill. This way you make me inferior and I don’t like it. Even if I fall, I’d like to move forward in my own way.”
Other people look at her and say, “I don’t know what to do and what to say.” The girl says “Why are you confused? It’s easy. You remain you and I will be me.”
“I too wish for an identity. My unique ambition is that the world will say ‘You belong here’! Do not see my defect but see my zeal. Give me but a chance and I will stun everyone! I too wish for an identity, I too have a goal. Let me work and do my share that I too may gain respect. Help me fulfil this dream, that my life may not be wasted.”
Only my legs are unsteady, my heart and my mind do not waver.
This poster uses the image of a rakhi, a friendship band, to show the strength of unity among women with disabilities.
A poster that takes up the issue of displacement of tribal peoples because of ‘development’ projects. It pokes fun at the promises of rehabilitation that are routinely made but seldom kept.
If minority identity, sexual preference and disability have posed challenges, so has the question of caste. Dalit women have sharply questioned the movement for failing to make the links between gender and caste oppression, for not supporting the Dalit solidarity movement, and for marginalizing Dalit issues. With the formation of Dalit women’s groups, as with that of lesbian women’s groups, these issues have come to the fore.
“Even a bull is retired. But we are slaves for life.
Dalits, placed at the bottom of the caste ladder, are among the most exploited people in the Indian society. Many Dalits, both men and women, are still held in ‘bonded labour’, tied to an exploitative employer for life.
“If disability is a curse, then what kind of fate is disability and slavery? Let us join together to fight the exploitation of children, the disabled and bonded labourers.”
Women should have the right to age with dignity.
Another important campaign has been for the rights of other marginalized women such as sex workers. While a debate is ongoing about whether or not sex work should be legalized, there is widespread agreement and activism on the question of the rights of women engaged in sex work.
“Prevention of AIDS is not the job of sex workers, and showing the way are women streetwalkers.”
This poster talks about how important condoms are to prevent AIDS
VAMP has been working with sex workers for many years. The focus of the organisation is to work towards the acceptability of sex workers as ordinary human beings with desires, dreams and rights.
Zubaan is an independent feminist publishing house based in New Delhi with a strong academic and general list. It was set up as an imprint of India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, and carries forward Kali’s tradition of publishing world quality books to high editorial and production standards. Zubaan means tongue, voice, language, speech in Hindustani. Zubaan publishes in the areas of the humanities, social sciences, as well as in fiction, general non-fiction, and books for children and young adults under its Young Zubaan imprint.