Feminist icon, poet, author and a pioneer of the women’s rights movement in South Asia, Kamla Bhasin, died in Delhi on 25th September after battling cancer.
Bhasin was the founder of Sangat(South Asian Network of Gender Activists and Trainer), a South Asian feminist network, and co-founder of Jagori, a women’s resource centre.
She was also the South Asian coordinator of the One Billion Rising campaign to end sexual violence, besides being associated with several other organizations.
She is known for improvising and popularizing in India the ‘Azadi’ slogan, which she picked up from Pakistani feminists.
Nurturing the dream of creating gender progressive households, she had taken up the onus of eliminating gender stereotypes from nursery rhymes.
In her book ‘What Is Patriarchy?’ Kamla Bhasin argued that religion has always been misused to justify patriarchy by replacing logical arguments and discussion with the infallibility of a belief system.
Traditions too play a part in sustaining patriarchy. Bhasin believed that Kanyaadan was an act against the Constitution of India as it embodied the ideology of slavery, with a man giving away the ownership of a woman to another man.
However, in addition to religious and traditional patriarchy, she believed that neoliberalism has given rise to a new form of patriarchy -capitalist patriarchy, which is manifested by the rise of pornography, and cosmetics. It has reduced women to their bodies and deprived them of agency.
Kamla Bhasin believed that mere economic development was not the answer to achieve an egalitarian society. Rather,neo-liberasim increases the paradigms of inequality and leads to a contest of -Mainstream versus those in the periphery, rich versus poor, upper caste versus lower caste, men versus women, rich verses richer, because this becomes a fight for resources.
Kamla Bhasin argued that while people across the world mistake feminism to be an urban concept, all major women’s movements in history were initiated by rural women. Hence, Feminism is not an urban phenomenon and only Upper class women cannot bring change in the society. She cited the example of Chipko movement and land rights movement.
Kamla Bhasin observed that most of the violence inflicted on people is by men as it is masculine to hide their emotions and become violent. Thus, patriarchy dehumanizes men.
In her book ‘Borders and Boundaries: Women in India’s partition’, Kamla Bhasin speaks of how wars between communities were fought by violating the turf of women’s bodies and policies by the states were formulated neglecting the female voice.