Madhu Kishwar is the founder and editor of “Manushi: a journal on women and society”. Kishwar is one of India’s foremost thinkers in the arena of women’s rights, social justice, collective responsibility and perspectives on social change. As an activist scholar, Kishwar advocates the politics of engagement. She has made prolific editorial contributions to Manushi since its inception in 1979, and her work has appeared in several anthologies. Her writing is appreciated worldwide for its incisiveness and thought-provoking, challenging quality, and she is an invigorating speaker. Kishwar is currently a senior fellow at the Centre for Studies in Developing Societies in New Delhi, India. (full text).
Read: Feminism in India has no integrity. You can’t trust it, (full long interview).
She says: “For many feminists, getting along with a mother-in-law, or even having a happy marriage is a sign of mental slavery! I was repelled by this insistence on joyless, confrontational living”.
Madhu Kishwar – India
She works for Vimochana (named on India together).
Destined to fail: The present day dowry system symbolizes the disinheritance of women and the resulting desperation of parents to push their daughters out of their homes after marrying them off. Madhu Purnima Kishwar points to inherent flaws in the anti-dowry legislation, and argues that equal inheritance is the way forward. (full text).
She says also (answering the Question ‘Don’t brothers and their wives become resentful if the girl comes back? In north India, we have found that the role of the bhabhi (brother’s wife or sister-in-law) is very vicious and plays an important role in keeping women from seeking support and shelter in their parental home)? Madhu Kishwar: The resentment comes from both the bhabhis and her brothers. They already have old parents to look after. Then there are their own children. They don’t want any more responsibility, especially one they consider a burden. Their familiar argument is: In our social set-up the woman’s only place is in her husband’s house. We learnt that a woman is gagged by the dictates of her family, her community and her society. And if she tries to seek help from the so-called law-enforcing agencies, the police or the judiciary, she does not get anywhere. The police might register a cursory First Information Report and pass on the work to the forensic department, which will hand its report to the judciary. Such matters are rarely taken seriously if a proper case is not made in the original FIR, which requires effort and investigation by the police. But usually, everybody just keeps passing the buck and nothing ever results from seeking help from the law. The police blame the forensic department who in turn say they acted on the FIR provided to them. And the judiciary will not be satisfied with evidence that does not meet every legal nicety. Moreover, evidence is presented during the last stages of a court proceeding. We have not had a case that was completed within six months or a year. We have cases pending in the courts for more than 14 years. I recall a murder case where eight or 10 years after the incident they produced in court a little piece of burnt wood and said this was used as a weapon. Obviously, the case fell flat as they didn’t present the sort of evidence that convinces the court. A judge can make a decision only on the basis of evidence provided by whoever is assigned the task. Another reason for lack of evidence is that, in many such cases, the women’s parents are not informed immediately even if they live nearby and the victim is battling for life in a hospital. They learn her fate only after she is dead. In the hospital, the in-laws pretend that it was a natural death and deny that it had anything to do with dowry. When the police constable comes over to take a dying declaration the husband (the usual suspect) has fled or is in hiding. His brothers, sisters, and parents plead that “it all happened in a moment of anger but there are children to be taken care of, so please don’t take the man away.” They also seek to give assurances to guarantee his good behaviour in the future. For the victim, this is the first time she hears her in-laws talk nicely to her. When a woman decides to kill herself, she is pushed into the decision through bigamy, sexual harassment or an uncaring husband. Nevertheless, she has this Savitri attitude – she would prefer to just end her life and let her husband get away with his criminal behaviour. This stops her from giving a dying declaration which indicts the husband with the blame for her misery, and this is just the sort of thing that the police don’t want to acknowledge or understand. These women don’t tell the truth. There was this victim who was brought to the hospital with her hands and legs badly burnt. She kept repeating, “No, my husband came to save me.” The way she said it, one knew that she was trying to hide something and protect him. The police and the courts ask for eyewitnesses. But we’ve had a case where they even rejected an eyewitness account and said it is not admissible. This happened in a village on the outskirts of Bangalore. A relative of the girl was walking past the house when he saw her crying. Seeing bruises on her body he asked her what had happened. She said “My husband beat me in the morning.” This was the day she died. But the judge ruled against admitting the witness in the court because, held the judge, “He is an interested party.” Most often, you cannot have totally foolproof evidence of a crime that is so highly personalised and private”. (full interview text).
Let me now talk about Madhu Kishwar, a social activist and the editor of Manushi, and a great symbol of women’s empowerment. Manushi has been described as one of the world’s best women’s magazines, also as the voice of India’s conscience. Manushi was founded in 1978 by Madhu Kishwar and a few others with a capital of Rs 500. What makes the magazine unique is that it accepts no advertisements and no donations. Sometimes the magazine doesn’t have money even for postage. In its early years, it could not even afford a typewriter. The magazine has 6,000 subscribers in India, Europe, the US, Africa and Australia. Says Madhu Kishwar. “In India, you get a lot of affection and respect if people are convinced that you’re not out to make money, that you are a genuine social worker.” (full text).
Naive Outpourings of a Self-Hating Indian, Published on infinity foundation.com.
National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector;
Tag: Madhu Kishwar;
The Bandit Queen, Reviewed by Madhu Kishwar, Published on people viginia.edu;