Five moments from 2018 that emboldened the fight for gender justice

Five moments from 2018 that emboldened the fight for gender justice

The year 2018 saw the movement for gender justice take various different forms, with campaigns in the streets, on social media, as well as in courtrooms. While many of these campaigns courted great controversy here are some of the most significant developments in Gender Justice this year. 

1)    #metoo 

#balancetonporc and the #metoo movement came to India with the Raya Sarkar list of Indians in academia that were called out for sexual harassment. While this had a significant impact in terms of sparking conversations on the nature of sexual harassment and power relations in India, more tangibly, it also led to institutional proceedings against the alleged perpetrators. In 2018, #metoo was back with a vengeance, in the media industry with several senior journalists, ministers, actors and producers being called out by their colleagues for alleged acts of harassment. In 2018, the impact of the movement was significantly stronger and led to a spate of resignations, sackings, and formal legal proceedings against senior figures in the industry. 
This makes it to the list, primarily because of the fact the campaign gave survivors a voice at a time when all the institutional mechanisms that were put in place let them down. More importantly, the movement acted as a beacon for women across the country to look to and call out their abusers, in a drawn-out moment of sisterhood that hasn’t fully passed and shows no signs of relenting in its zeal to hold abusers accountable. 


Metoo movement comes to india
Photo courtesy:

2)    The reading down of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code 

September 6, 2018, saw the Supreme Court of India make one of its most progressive judgements in Indian history by decriminalizing homosexuality. Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra, when writing his judgement clearly noted that the “the natural identity of an individual should be treated to be absolutely essential to his being.”  Following in the footsteps of the Naz Foundation vs. Government of NCT of Delhi and Ors, the verdict in 2009 where Justice AP Shah noted that “Moral indignation, howsoever strong, is not a valid basis for overriding individuals’ fundamental rights of dignity and privacy. In our scheme of things, constitutional morality must outweigh the argument of public morality, even if it be the majoritarian view.”
By decriminalizing homosexuality the Supreme Court has held up the principle of constitutional morality and given the LGBTQ the full extent of protection under Article 14 (granting equality before the law and equal protection from the law) and 21 (which guarantees the protection of life and personal liberty). This paves the path for more progressive action for the LGBTQ community and hence remains one of the most significant developments in Gender Justice this year. 


Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code

3)    Supreme Court lifts the ban on women’s entry to Sabarimala 

Under heavy protest on September 28th, 2018 the Supreme Court of India lifted the ban on women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple. The temple, which previously did not allow women of menstruating age to enter was directed to lift the ban, leading to huge protests in the state. In their judgement, Justice Mishra noted that “Patriarchal rules have to change. Patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump right to pray and practise religion", with Justice Nariman adding that "To exclude women of the age group 10-50 from the temple is to deny dignity to women. To treat women as children of lesser god is to blink at the Constitution".
With the legal support of the courts, on the 2nd of January, 2019, two women in their 40s created history by entering Sabarimala temple, breaching the shrine’s traditional ban on women of menstruating age.
In this verdict unlike the pleas against Section 377, judgement was split 4-1 with Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge on the bench stating that "Notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion”. Apart from judicial dissent, the State of Kerala has been shaken by protest and a total of 49 review petitions have been filed with hearings scheduled for the 22nd of January 2019. 
Review petitions aside, the judgement on women’s entry to Sabarimala has been a landmark one that has proven to be one of the most significant in the movement towards Gender Justice this year. 

Sabrimala and the issue of women's religious rights and right to enter religious institutions
Photo Courtesy: The Pioneer

4)    Protest against the Kathua Gangrape

In early April 2018, the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old from the nomadic Bakrwal community in Kashmir shook the conscience of India. As details of the rape, as well as the support to the accused given by the state government and the state bar association, emerged, protests against the perpetrators reached nationwide proportions. 
After a great struggle, charges against the accused were filed and a case was formally registered against the alleged rapists. Two state cabinet ministers who had openly supported the accused and the attempts by the State Bar Association to prevent the victims’ family from filing charges, were forced to stop down following massive protest. The accused, including a temple priest, 4 police officers, and relatives of the priest are currently under trial, amidst great scrutiny from the Indian public. 
This moment is significant because it represents the power of civic action and its ability to hold power accountable. 


Kathua and Unnao gangrapes shook India

5)    Triple Talaq Ban 

In August 2017 the Supreme Court of India, in a 3:2 split judgement struck down the legal recognition afforded to the Islamic practice of triple talaq. In the majority judgement, Justice Kurien Joseph disagrees with Chief Justice Khehar and writes “Merely because a practice has continued for long that by itself cannot make it valid if it has been expressly declared to be impermissible.” 
In late December 2018, the Triple Talaq Bill, criminalizing the practice was passed in Lok Sabha after 4 hours of debate and amidst great controversy. Proponents of the criminalization of the practice argued that it enabled men to abandon their wives, while detractors argued that the Supreme Court judgement was adequate, and that criminalization was being used as a tool to target Muslim men. 
This makes it to the list because, regardless of the controversy, both the judgement as well as the bill are indicative of movements against religious dogma across various religions, while also gaining significance as one of the most contentious political issues of 2018.   

Triple Talaq in India
Photo Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle 

These are just a few of the moments that embodied the movement towards gender equality in 2018 and please feel to drop your suggestions in the comments below.

Oxfam India is constantly working to ensure equitable rights and gender justice in India. You too can join Oxfam India in this endeavour. DONATE NOW for gender justice in India.

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