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This book by one of the pioneers of the contemporary women’s rights movement in India combines insights gathered from deep engagement with the lives and coping strategies of ordinary women. With first hand knowledge of the workings of legislation and the law enforcement machinery in India, the author attempts to explain why laws enacted for the ostensible purpose of strengthening women’s rights end up producing such dismal results. These essays exemplify a tenacious, logical, and sincere effort to understand what measures of reform work or don’t work in the real world and the author’s willingness to revise and refine her own assumptions and interventions in order to synchronize with the requirements and aspirations of India’s diverse women.
I. BATTLING STEREOTYPES
From Manusmriti to Madhusmriti: Flagellating a Mythical Enemy
Deadly Laws and Zealous Reformers: The Conflicting Interpretations and Politics of Sati
Naive Outpourings Of a Self-Hating Indian: Deepa Mehtàs Fire
Allies or Adversaries? The Continuing Hold of Traditional Female Moral Exemplars in India
Learning to take People Seriously
Dowry: To Ensure Her Happiness or to Disinherit Her?
Using Women as a Pretext for Censorship: The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Bill
II. BATTLING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Women's Organizations I: Vengeance Squads, Firefighters or Counsellors?
Women's Organizations II: The Pressure of Unrealistic Expectations
Laws Against Domestic Violence: Underused or Abused?
Well-intentioned but Over Ambitious: A Review of the New Domestic Violence Act
Destined to Fail: Inherent Flaws in the Anti-dowry Legislation
III. INHERITANCE RIGHTS
Toiling without Rights: The Ho Women of Singhbhum
Inheritance Rights for Women: A Response to Some Commonly Expressed Fears
IV. CHALLENGES OF POLITICS AND ORGANIZATION
Nature of Women's Mobilisation in Rural India
The Logic of Quotas: Women's Movement Splits on the Reservation Bill
Indian Politics: Encourages Durgas, Snubs Women
Enhancing Women's Representation in Legislatures: An Alternative to the Government Bill for Women's Reservation
Lack of Gender Solidarity: Systematic Degrading of Women Politicians