Transcending borders and boundaries

Synopsis: The work of feminist writers and women movements highlighted the core arguments behind women movements. The world should learn from them.


The concept of peace-building and protest are usually seen as two distinct entities. But in the matter of women’s movements, particularly in South Asia starting with the 1980s and 1990s, these two were intertwined.

What are the contributions of feminist writers?

Kamla Bhasin, who wrote about women’s issues that transcend even borders, cultures and societies, reflects the issues of women, society and the state.

Women in South Asia face a continuum of violence – both structural and over it – which is inflicted by patriarchies, family structure, community and the state. This was very well depicted in Bhasin’s book with Ritu Menon, Borders and Boundaries, and Urvashi Butalia’s The Other Side of Silence were both published in the 1990s. They gave the narratives of pain, loss, displacement and violence that the Partition of India had brought on women on both sides of the border.

Read more: The Indian women’s movement can only grow by being inclusive
Few prominent women movements in South Asia

Various ethnic conflicts in regions like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan enabled civil society to debate about issues of justice, rights, patriarchy, militarisation and nuclearisation. In recent decades, South Asia has witnessed collective actions of “disobedient women” fighting for peace and defying state-centric notions of security and order. For example,

-Various initiatives like the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) in Pakistan reached out to their sisters in Bangladesh to apologize for the atrocities of the Pakistan army in 1971.

-The Women’s Peace Bus undertaken by the Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA) from Delhi to Lahore in 2000 demanded a war-free South Asia.

-Women in Security Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP) brought young South Asians together in workshops on conflict transformation.

Persevered with the mission to expand constituencies for peace: This is visible in the mother’s movements in Sri Lanka, the Chipko, Narmada, Bhopal and Kudankulam movements in India.

What are the core arguments of women movements?

The movements highlight the tension between people’s security and so-called national security. They argue or oppose the war and cultures of militarism. They highlight how the discourses of hegemony and masculinity are designed to preserve power hierarchies nationally and internationally, and even in the world economic order.

The movements used numerous innovative methods and feminist concepts.

What should one learn from women movements?

The landmark United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR 1325) in 2000 had set the template for women’s peace and security agenda. But they should draw from experiences of the women’s movement carried out in South Asia to settle the debate between the notion of security and security of women.

Overall, the world needs to create a nurturing love for society, love for people and love for humanity. All this will ensure the security of everyone, including women.

Source: This post is based on the article “Transcending borders and boundariespublished in The Hindu on 25th October 2021.

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