Inspired by the issue: The challenges to operationalising gender justice in India

Geetanjali Gangoli
Geetanjali Gangoli

As a friend of Policy & Politics, former editor and someone who has (very) recently stepped down as Chair of the Policy & Politics Management Board, the journal is of particular interest to me. The October issue has an article by Keerty Nakray that speaks directly to my research interests on feminisms, gender and India: Gender budgeting and public policy: the challenges to operationalizing gender justice in India.)

Nakray’s article raises the important issue of gender budgeting in the Indian context, and the role of feminist intervention in introducing this concept to India. Gender budgeting refers to not only a gendered analysis of the national (or state level) budgets, but at a broader and much more conceptual level, to locating gender relations within the economy as a whole. Nakray also raises the very significant theoretical and methodological issue of intersectionality, or the idea that people in society are made up of multiple identities, including gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, social class and Indian context, caste, and religion, and all these factors (may) work together and against each other.

Arguably the issue of gender is more significant than ever in India today, particularly with the dominance of Hindu rightwing political forces, neoliberal ideologies, and the increased contestation over women’s bodies and agency. While the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) professes a commitment to gender equality, its record on women’s rights remains dismal. There is little doubt that gender-based violence continues to be of particular concern in India. The fact that the BJP’s role in perpetrating and condoning sexual violence against Muslim women during communal riots (particularly in Gujarat in 2002) has largely remained unchallenged, will exacerbate this situation. Further attacks on minorities, such as the beef ban and the murder of a working class Muslim man accused of eating beef near the Indian capital city further brings to the fore issues of intersectionality whilst analysing public policy.

Nakray’s paper points to the ‘symbolic and lackadaisical commitment to gender equality’ revealed in the evaluation of India’s gender budgets so far. For anyone familiar with Indian society and economy, this does not come as a surprise. Indian feminists have long argued that tackling economic or educational gender inequality remains symbolic and will be ineffective without a commitment to ending gender-based violence, class inequality and religious communalism. There is no doubt that Indian feminists will, as before, continue to fight against patriarchy within the domestic sphere, the workplace, the public sphere and the State, and that an important part of this will be an engagement with gender budgeting and holding national governments to account.

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you may be interested in Michele Burman and Jenny Johnstone’s High hopes? The gender equality duty and its impact on responses to gender-based violence.

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