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  • SUBHRANIL BHOWMIK

FEMINISM & LAW

“Feminism” and “law” are two terms which are very similar to us. Both of them plays a vital role in our life. But most important fact is that they are inter-related. Both works on ensuring equality in a social, political, economic, status among the genders. Lets first understand what they actually mean. The word “FEMINISM” came from Latin word fēminīnus which means the promotion of women’s privileges on the ground of the fairness of the genders. It talks about equality among all the genders existing. We can also define “feminism” as the choice of being anything without discrimination.

Now if we define “law” in simple terms, we can say it’s a body of rules of action or a conduct which is prescribed by controlling authority, having a binding legal force. The main purpose of law is to maintain law & order, resolving dispute and protecting rights and liberties. It may come into a surprise that concept of law has come from jurisprudence which came from Latin word “ jurisprudential” which means ‘knowledge of law’ or ‘ skill in law’. Jurisprudence is actually the theoretical study of law . In earlier days law didn’t exist ; people used to work or judge with sense of moral values and ethics also is a source of law. According to great juris ,Salmond Philosophical legal theory is the common ground of Law and ethics.

Feminism and jurisprudence (source of law) has worked together in a same concept which is known as equalism referring to section 14 of Indian constitution. There are numerous theories in the jurisprudence among which one is “ feminist jurisprudence”. Feminist jurisprudence is a philosophy of law based on political, social equality of sexes. Its based on the belief that law has been fundamental in women’s historical subordination. Feminist jurisprudence or feminist legal theory is twofold. First, Feminist jurisprudence seeks to explain ways in which law played a role in women’s subordinate status . second, feminist legal theory is dedicated to changing women status through a rework of law and its approach to gender. Feminist jurisprudence is a fight against traditional law which are mostly patriarchal in nature. It challenges the existing legal status by focussing on kind of institution and laws which are necessary to redress the imbalance against women in society. Feminist jurisprudence holds many debates on sexual & domestic violence, inequality in workplace , & gender based discrimination. Through various approaches feminist have identified gendered components and gendered implications of seemingly neutral laws and practices .Laws affecting employment ,divorce , reproductive rights , rape, domestic violence , sexual harassment have all benefited from analysis and insight of feminist jurisprudence .Many feminist believed that history was written from a male point of view and doesn’t reflect on women’s role in making history and structuring society .Although feminist jurisprudence share common commitments to equality between men and women , feminist jurisprudence or feminist legal theory is not uniform.

Unlike the western world, the feminism in India was actually initiated by the men .The abolition of sati by Raja Ram Mohan Roy & William Bentick ,widow remarriage by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was first step towards feminism. Post independence of India, although our constitution spoke about equality but still it wasn’t not into the act of people but with the increasing globalization and rise of “ personal rights “feminism took a new shape. In the India’s National freedom movement , the leaders like Sarojini Naidu, Begum Rokeya ,Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, Kittur Chennamma, Manikarnika, Kamini Roy, Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi Played a vital role in the rise of feminism .

Many feminist writers criticized the theory of Austin, Hart, Kelsen. Writers like Carole pateman ,Catherine MacKinon, Carol Gilligan,Margot Stubbs challenged the theories of Austin, Hart, Kelsen. Issues like child marriage, not educating the girl child, unequal payment of women with respect to equal duration of work and designation has lead to need of feminist movement or feminism. Acts such as Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956; THE DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT, 1961, (Act No. 28 of 1961); Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986; Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987; Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013;The Women's Reservation Bill or The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008 are the best results of feminism. Cases such as Kerry Ellison v Nicholas F. Brady, 924 F.2d 872 (9th Cir. 1991); General Elec. Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976); McCourtney v. Imprimis Tech., Inc. - 465 N.W.2d 721 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991) has also contributed in rise of feminist movement and maintaining law & order and maintaining equality among genders. So we can say law did play vital role in rise of feminism .

Lastly I want to say that this article not only to discuss about the role of law in the rise of feminism but also to celebrate the milestones achieved by a change in law due to feminist jurisprudence &radical change in mind-set of people due to feminism.



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