Women’s struggles for freedom and equality have been a vibrant part of all social movements for transformation and social justice through history. Mary Wollstonecraft wrote in 1792 in her Vindication of the Rights of Womenthat the struggle for rights of women is located within the personal space – the home and the family; and within the public space – the political and economic world.
Two hundred years later, women activists defined their experiences of violence, subordination and disadvantage as located within patriarchy. Patriarchy is a social formation that gives privilege to male power and separates the public and the private worlds. It constructs ‘gender’ (the socially constructed meaning assigned to the sexes) as a binary of male and female and assigns particular roles and privileges to these. It assigns to women roles within the private sphere which are attributed lesser value – creating and perpetuating inequality. Patriarchy also privileges heterosexuality, establishing sexual hierarchies and marginalizing sexual and gender identities that do not fall within this power dynamics. A pattern of violence, oppression, silencing and marginalization are used to enforce this value system.
Women defenders India-Article-2009 (full text in English, PDF)