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The Pink Panties Movement and the Indian Women's Sexual Revolution

The cultural boundaries imposed on the sexual freedom and sexual expressions of women, have been an effective means of the subjugation of women in societies all over the world. In the west however, by the 1970s, the feminist movement was already pulling down those walls and demanding the same rights to sexual autonomy as men. Easier access to contraception and the legalization of abortion were part and parcel of this march to sexual freedom. Though some think this goal is still far from being realized, the recent popularity of television series like Sex and the City, about the sexual escapades of four, single, freewheeling women in New York City, is an indication of a certain level of societal comfort in modern, western societies with the notion of women's sexual assertions.

In non-western countries like India however, even as a minute section of the liberal elite tries to experiment with the idea of sexual freedom within the privacy of its restricted space, the sexual boundary walls for women remain dauntingly tall and unchallenged, and are periodically reinforced through the public castigation of violators.

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Carri Pence's picture

Rita, I always love reading

I always love reading your entries. I feel like I have such a better perspective of India and it's culture through your voice. The United States is a funny place because we love to explore sexuality in movies and shows such as Knocked Up, Sex and the City, and even Golden Girls. But through our politics we still remain not being progressive when it comes to sexual rights, and homosexual rights. Though more advanced then India, we are still very backwards. I was wondering how the media in India expresses sexual rights, if any. Furthermore, has bollywood (which is even popular here) had any affect on the Indian culture through the eyes on women rights?

hi Carrie,

This actually is a very important point you make and I have repeatedly brought that up here in India. The basis of the feminist movement in the U.S. was that the woman's body is her own domain. Sex, reproduction, abortion, birth control etc. is her choice and the idea of women's freedom/ rights in society (as with all the other issues like education, jobs etc.) is connected to the idea of her individual rights and freedom over her own body.

In India we have never had a 'feminist' movement! And women themselves here in India have this sense that before marriage -- a girls family, her father is the 'keeper' of her body, her sexuality, sexual freedom etc. They have the right to marry her off to whoever they want -- whenever they want. More than 70% of girls are married off long before the age of 17. And then they are, well basically raped, and forced to go through multiple pregnancies and/or abortions (to abort female babies) -- there her body is owned by her husband and inlaws.

The women's movement tries to work around this. Largely because the idea of 'family' and 'tradition' are like mindblocks here. So they talk about giving rights or empowering the woman -- by "giving" her education, etc. But the thing is -- as i argue -- if a woman does not have a sense of freedom of self, and believes that her family and father and husband and in-laws own the rights over her body and sexuality, then she will never know how to claim and use 'external' rights like education, jobs etc. as tools for her personal empowerment. Because she has no sense of free self!

Rita Banerji

Rita Banerji's picture

bollywood no!

No -- bollywood, prime time t.v. -- none of them dare challenge this notion -- and explore the woman's body and her right over it. The public would not have it. There was one movie 'Fire' -- where these two housewives who were very unhappy in their marriages have a lesbian love affair. And what do you know -- the crowds go beserk. They attack and vandalise movie halls, send threats and manage to stop the halls showing the films. The government and the courts dare not intervene.

Rita Banerji

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