Daughters of the Social Reform: Challenges and Negotiations
Panel:16 | Governing and Representing Gender and Sex(uality) in South Asia – (Re-)Negotiating Lakshman Rekha
Timeslot:07/27 | 09:20-09:40 UTC+2/CEST
Daughters of the Social Reform: Challenges and Negotiations The twentieth century ‘second social reform movement’ started with the Sarda Act (1929)and culminated in the Hindu Code Bill (1954-56). In contrast to the reform of the nineteenth century, now the women’s organizations played a significant role. Bengali women also became a part of this momentous change. Their struggle was not only against the colonial rulers, but also against conservatism and patriarchy. I have chosen three autobiographies of twentieth century Bengali women who in tune with the changing era transgressed the normative behavior of middle class femininity and crossed the ‘laxmanrekha’ to enter into the public world of politics and social activism. I have chosen Renuka Ray’s My Reminiscences: Social Development During the Gandhian Era and After; Manikuntala Sen’s In Search of Freedom: An Unfinished Journey; and Ashoka Gupta’s In the Path of Service: Memories of a Changing Century. In all these narratives, they conveyed their gratitude to their mothers who helped them transcend the barrier and were their main pillar of support. While Renuka’s mother was an ‘early feminist’, Manikuntala’s mother maintained seclusion. Ashoka’s mother was a young, dependent widow who later made her career as an author. These mothers in tune with the nineteenth century reforms did not let their daughters marry early, gave equal opportunity to study along with their sons. Later these daughters entered the public world of politics and social activism and fought for the legal rights of women, the unprivileged. They became a part of the second social reform movement and helped in re-constructing the newly independent nation.