Urban, middle-class, educated and professional women are coming together to form groups to fight against issues of violence against women. These groups set up documentation and resource centres, conduct organised and coalesced activities — such as agitation — and even provide legal and humanitarian aid to women in need.
While affiliated groups prioritise alleviation of poverty, promoting literacy, and seeking availability of jobs when trying to aid the primary needs of women, autonomous groups are raising their voice against issues of violence against women. These include cases of rape (including custodial rape), dowry deaths, amniocentesis or selective abortion of female foetuses, women’s ill-health, preventing women from accessing their reproductive choice and sexual division of labour. Particularly within families, patriarchy informs the power relations, and legal and institutional practices sustain women’s subordinate familial roles.
Irrespective of women’s activism within the family or as part of an autonomous political organisations, political parties have been desultory in prioritising, promoting and giving importance to women’s concerns. This is most evident from women’s insignificant presence in the organisational structures of political parties. An insubstantial number of women are given party candidature in elections, leading to their meagre representation in the Parliament.
Yet, despite the dispute among women’s groups over definitions, forms and methods of struggles around women’s issues, it would be a mistake to assume that affiliated women’s movements invariably function within the dominant party paradigms. There is often another assumption, that women would be more effective in their campaign if they work as a mass base rather than autonomous groups, which have a much smaller membership.
The manner in which women’s issues are articulated and the degree of success they have achieved in specific campaigns has, in practice, depended on the nature of the political field in which a particular organisation is situated.