1 An early article that I co-wrote, ‘‘Shahbano,’’ was received by U.S. academic
feminism as an instance of feminist ‘‘theorizing’’ of the ‘‘political’’ (the title of
Butler and Scott’s 1992 volume, in which it was reprinted). Writing about
Shahbano in the wake of the passage of the Muslim Women’s (Protection in
Divorce) Act 1986, we had located female legal subjectivity as the theoretical
problem at the heart of our analysis (Pathak and Sunder Rajan 1989).
1 Introduction
1 Several essays in Recasting Women describe these processes. See Sangari and Vaid
1989. Also see Tanika Sarkar 1996.
2 According to the Human Development Report released in June 2000, India
ranks 128th on the Human Development index in the report’s ranking of 174
countries. The index is based on three categories: health and mortality, educa-
tion, and standard of living. The report commends the participation of Indian
women in local politics as a result of 33 percent reservation of seats for them in
panchayats (local councils) but notes that much still needs to be done to
overcome social prejudice, especially in the area of schooling. The literacy rate
for women is only 39 percent (against overall literacy of 52 percent), which is
further lowered in the case of Scheduled Castes and Tribes to 18 percent.
3 Following the cswi report, the government sponsored a report on women in
the unorganized sector, headed by Ela Bhatt, which resulted in the Shram
Shakti report of 1988. The National Perspective Plan for Women (1988–2000)
followed. The National Commission for Women was set up in 1992. The
government has recently formulated a National Policy for the Empowerment
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