May 2019


"Feminist Legal Activism in India"

Cledwyn Room 3, Main Arts Building, Bangor University
Thursday 16 May 2019, 17:30–19:00
School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences
Dr Marcel Stoetzler

"Feminist Legal Activism in India"

Tanja Herklotz - Berlin

Since its emergence in the 1970s, the Indian women's rights movement has very actively used both lobbying for better legislation as well as litigation in its fight for gender equality. While some of the movement's campaigns have been very successful, others have utterly failed. This paper explains why this has been the case. Looking at the Indian women's rights movement through a comparative lens, this paper not only provides a detailed study of the movement's protagonists and its campaigns from the 1970s till today, it also explores how the Indian women's movement resembles and differs from its counterparts in the global North and to what extent the battles fought and the tools used are similar to or different from those of other feminist movements around the world. The study focuses on the movement's activism in two particular areas: 1. marriage and the family (more specifically religion-based "personal laws"); and 2. violence against women. It will show that both the Indian parliament and the Indian courts have been much more receptive to the movement's campaigns against violence against women than to the movement's attempt to reform India's family law. The explanation this paper provides for this finding, is a first step towards developing parameters of success in legal mobilisation in India, and the global South more broadly.

Tanja Herklotz is a PhD candidate at Humboldt University Berlin and currently a visiting researcher at the University of Warwick. She holds a German law degree from the University of Münster and an LL.M. degree from SOAS, University of London. She works on issues related to law, gender, social movements and religion with a particular focus on India. For her PhD project on "Feminist Legal Activism in India" she has conducted fieldwork with women's rights activists in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. She teaches in the area of constitutional law, human rights and comparative law. From July 2019 onwards she will coordinate a project at Humboldt University on cultures of legal studies in Europe and India.

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