A surprising cultural norm prevails in India: Men here like to hold hands.
DK Padma, who worked in the department of inorganic and physical chemistry from 1967 to 1994, recalled how the head of the department told her she would only be admitted if she promised not to have a child during the tenure of her course. And Revathi Narayan, a student between 1974 and 1979, was reportedly asked by a member of the department of biochemistry if she planned to leave the course halfway to start a family.
India is now the worst place in the world to be a woman. The country has topped the list of the most dangerous countries for women, thanks to widespread sexual violence, retrograde cultural practices, and trafficking, according to a poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. In 2011, when a similar poll was last conducted, India ranked fourth behind Afghanistan, Congo, and Pakistan.
“Any time a woman is added to the C-Suite it’s something that should be celebrated,” Anna Beninger, senior director of research at Catalyst, a non-profit that tracks women in leaderships positions, told Bloomberg. “Given that the rate of change for women into the C-suite and into the CEO level has been so slow, any time we see one, it is certainly progress.”
A working paper by researchers at the universities of Essex, Michigan, Siegen, and Youngstown has found that Indian constituencies that elected women recorded “significantly higher growth” in economic activity over those that elected men. It was found that when a constituency elected a woman with a small margin, the growth in annual luminosity over an electoral term was 15.25 percentage points higher than that of seats that elected a man. This translates to a 1.85 percentage point difference in annual GDP growth, according to the findings.
“It was a lot to do with the fact that there weren’t many other girls actively in the scene and I wanted a crew to skate and hang with,” says , explaining how Girl Skate India came about. “I also felt what an exciting time it was for skateboarding in India, and I wanted more women to be a part of this history in the making.”
Deeply politicised and overwhelmingly male-dominated, the police forces of the various Indian states are known to avoid even filing cases in such instances, let alone acting on them. This is especially true if the accused occupy positions of power. Last year, a report by Human Rights Watch showed complainants themselves have been victimised further by officials, who threaten, assault, or rape them into silence.
Feminism in India has been organising monthly Edit-a-Thons, each dedicated to a different theme: Indian woman poets and authors, for instance, or freedom fighters.