Editorial by Dr. Sourav Banerjee - Women's Resettlement Project - TMYS Review December 2021

    “A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”                                                   

    - Gloria Steinem.


    The contemporary relevance of the above quotation by the famous American feminist journalist and social political activist of the late 1960s and early 1970s, establishes beyond doubt that gender inequality exists world over, with varying degrees of differences. While an astonishing number of women still strive for a decent life, some get ahead through sheer accident of birth, some through determination while a very large number still remain marginalized. In comparison to the women in developed countries, the status of women in a developing country like India is abysmal.  Factors like tradition, customs, economic status and lack of education have kept women subservient. Women who are empowered are a minority, though definitely a growing one. Feminism is still in its nascent stage in India and is mostly existent as an intellectual concept. Again, the concepts of equality and freedom hold different meanings to different Indian women depending on a lot of factors.

    Keeping all these in mind, the TMYS Review December 2021 has, in collaboration with Oxford University Press, explored Women's Resettlement and Displacement with reference to the gender identity and social inequality, focussing on four sub-themes:-

    a) Widow's Migration - the socio-religious and political stimulants,

    b) Inter-Caste & Inter-Community Weddings - the social and personal biases against women

    c) Crimes Against Women - physical and psychological rehabilitation for victims of rape and acid attack and

    d) Men for Women.

    This is the third project of the TMYS Review 2021-22 volume, under the broad theme of Migration, Displacement and Resettlement. The series had begun with Ambition Based Migration by the Indian Diaspora in collaboration with the University of Birmingham; followed by Floods Driven Displacement of Victims in collaboration with Environmental Humanities Center, Amsterdam.


    This third project was premised on the belief that since time immemorial, women have been subjected to various adverse situations in society and sadly enough it is still prevalent in the present day (though in varying degrees and in fewer geographical locations). Worse still, is the fact that the stories of such subjugation, biases and deprivation of women fail to be reported in official annals and are inadequately recorded. History too has been very unkind to women, whose stories are relegated to the background. This project therefore took the onus of discussing and analysing the various factors that contribute towards the emotional, psychological and physiological tendencies acquired and suffered by these women, with or without their conscious knowledge. Again the term women’s migration invites attention not only towards the physical movement of women in response to a phase or situation, but also at the aspect of psychological rehabilitation caused by social traditions/pressure arising from unequal gender rights and biased civil systems. The objectives of this project were:

    1) Youth engagement with a network of entities that have researched or contributed towards exposing the factors causing social discrimination and dysfunctionalities, 

    2) To curate critical insights for global learning and inspiration on the social, political and personal dynamics of women's resettlement in response to the world they inhabit, and

    3) Invite attention towards gender identity being constantly disrupted with compulsions imposed by an external world, interfering with the women's inner world. 


    The major concerns of this project were threefold, the problems pertaining to:

    a) widowhood,

    b) inter-caste and inter-religion marriages and

    c) female victims of assaults.

    First, it was found in the recent Research on Widows in India, Workshop and Conference Report by Marty Chen Jean Dreze, that the concerns of widows cannot be dissociated from those of other single women, or indeed from those of women in general. Widows do experience special difficulties amid deprivations, connected, inter alia, with the restrictions that are imposed on their lifestyle amid the persistence of negative social attitudes towards them. In the context of social science research, it is right to give attention to widowhood as a particular cause of deprivation. And, in the context of social action, it is right to organise and support widows in their specific demands (e g relating to pensions, property rights and other entitlements). It was noticed that there were intimate links between the predicament of widows and a wide range of patriarchal systems such as patrilineal inheritance, patrilocal residence and the gender division of labour.  Secondly, we find some evidence that a surge in marriage migration is caused by disguised economic migration by women. We can speculate that the changing patterns of marriage by socio-economic status might be a likely cause. We have focussed on the intersection between economic inequality and marriage migration. Customs related to marriage exogamy in much of India mean that large numbers of women have always migrated to their marital homes after marriage, so we must consider not only the prevalence of female marriage migration, but also in its increase over time especially in inter-caste or inter-religious marriages. Considering the fact that the rates of male migration have remained more or less stable, it is questionable that the increase in female migration is a result of more women following mobile spouses. So we have concentrated on marriage as a site of social production and reproduction, including the production and reproduction of economic inequalities. The main sources of data on migration in India, the NSS (National Sample Survey) and the census, are unable to capture temporary or circular migration of less than 6 months. As a result, the literature on inter-caste or inter-religious marriages concentrates on permanent, rather than circular, migration. Again the vast majority of Indian marriages are virilocal—that is, the wife moves to the husband's household (usually also the location of the husband's parents). Thus marriage and migration for many Indian women go hand in hand without considering its implications on the women. Thirdly, the question of the migration and resettlement of female victims of violence, both physical and psychological,  domestic and external,  sexual and non-sexual, is a complicated one and requires a multipronged approach. Not only do these women need physical relocation, but also social acceptance, means of sustenance, psychological counselling, and even need to learn skills or reskill themselves to be able to survive with dignity and not exclusively on alms and/or charity.  

    For the purpose of exploring, analysing and finding possible solutions to all these, in this project, we had curated solo and panel discussions on meticulously planned sub topics under each of the four subthemes mentioned above. We have been lucky enough to have been graced by the presence of thought leaders comprising of senior scholars, authors, journalists and lawyers under the sub themes of Widow's Migration, Inter-Caste and Inter-Community Weddings, Crimes Against Women and Men For Women. An archive of the talks are enclosed at the end of the issue.

    The salient points that emerged out of these panel discussions were:

    a) that in understanding the interrelated and historical links between the triad of concepts that is migration, sexual violence and citizenship, feminist geography plays a significant role in highlighting how certain identities are ‘othered’ through their ways of navigating and traversing through borders; while memory as a method of trying to understand the same helps show how women and other marginalised identities do not simply bear experiences of victimhood but that of resilience. There is thus a need to go beyond the conventional trope of the 'victim' when one approaches this issue without resorting to gross simplification, as it is a 'patchwork' of experiences,

    b) in believing that sexual violence is an 'intrinsic' problem of South Asia is to conform to western narratives of the region for sexual violence plays out throughout the world in diverse ways branching out of common factors having to do with differentials of power and gender-based hegemony,

    c) the idea of 'rape culture' as problematic, as such a nomenclature normalises it as a part of the larger cultural framework and gives it further impunity. There is also thus a further need to probe deeper into the ways our everyday language as well as judicial jargon feeds into perpetuating the dehumanisation of women who might have fallen victim to rape and/or other forms of sexual violence,

    d) ageing is a very gendered concept, and has many social implications; due to social stigmatization, widows have  limited options which ultimately forces them into a life in widow ashrams,

    e) philanthropy has been a central part of widow resettlement in Vrindavan, Varanasi and Uttarakhand; there was a push from the Supreme Court to address issues of widows, which prompted NGOs like Sulabh International to take up the charge for the same for successful empowerment of such communities,

    f) There is a very specific idea of a family in Indian society, which puts extreme importance of a woman's relational status to men - be it their brother, father or husband; a widow's situation becomes particularly complicated, and representations of this can be found in different mediums, including literature; the cultural role of a widow within a normative family structure turns out to be that of a caregiver or devotee; even though widows make up a significant percentage of the population, they are often left out of the discourse on property and land rights and

    g) An understanding of equality and women's rights must be inculcated in one during the formative years itself; there is also a need to hold multimedia responsible for better representation of empowered women, and to break out of age-old stereotypes; women also need to be put in positions of power at all levels of world organizations, and not just as token representatives without meaningful power.


    Then again these panel discussions have opened up some questions which need to be pondered over, like:

    a) How far have we come from the system of Varnas which was initially created for convenience and not to perpetuate discrimination and how can we achieve a caste free society?

    b) Is widowhood a reversal of the performance of marriage? So how do the performative arts envision it considering the girl has to relive the trauma and violence which she has endured since the time she has become a widow?

    c) Can/should self-immolation be seen as a form of suicide and what is the mythical role of fire in such an act? All these intriguing solo and panel discussions can be accessed in the digital archives of TMYS Review should one find interest in looking them up. Also complied in this edition are the best of the poems, short stories and essays (based on the panel discussions) that have been submitted as part of the projects call for submission, and the best three of which have also received certificate of excellence from our collaborating partner, Oxford University Press.


    Finally for the successful completion of this project I would like to thank my project team, namely, Ms. Chandna Singh Nirwan (senior project assistant), Ms. Deyasini Roy (senior project assistant), Ms. Sneha Roy (project assistant) and Ms. Damini Jain (junior project assistant) for their comprehensive research and wonderful handling of the panel discussions. Special thanks is also due to Ms. Koral Dasgupta, the founder of www.tellmeyourstory.biz, for her continuous support, and to Oxford University Press for their collaboration. We sincerely hope and believe the focus and the content that this issue of TMYS Review has created, will act as a repertoire for the students, scholars, researchers and even laymen (who do not wish to be caught up in the intricate maze of stereotypical literary jargons). It has also remained our endeavour to create a better understanding of the discussed themes and to enrich the existing critical materials on them, and even fill in the critical voids by adding contemporary and multidisciplinary perspectives to it.


    Dr. Sourav Banerjee

    Associate Professor.

    Project Lead, TMYS Review December 2021

    Series Editor, TMYS Review



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