Before the pandemic, citizenship was a hot topic. While some of us were swinging in fun at home while others were out on the street protesting. Didn’t the first category of people feared that their rights would be taken away or they were just being apolitical?
This whole scenario points to the notion of privilege. Let’s understand this through an example. A girl named Kiran lived in an urban slum in Mumbai. Her parents met their ends by doing household work. Kiran is the second child out of four brothers. She left her studies at the age of 13 to look after her younger siblings. She was married at age of 15 despite having an elder brother. Soon after the marriage, she got pregnant at a very young age, mother of three children at the age of 18. Her husband was abusive and never gave her the necessary things. He tortured her physically and left her in pain. This is just one example. There are many girls like her in India. What they have in common is that
they are disadvantaged in many ways. Girls like them are vulnerable because they are poor and uneducated. Being a woman further adds on to the more disadvantageous position.
Her being a citizen of India has not been able to extend her rights that she was entitled to. Citizenship has always been viewed as an egalitarian idea that extends rights to each person and groups and removes any kind of discrimination and subordination. But there is a wide gap between formal extensions of rights and exercise of it. Feminism considers both classical and modern notions of citizenship as inimical to women. Feminism as a concept always seeks justice for women. It is an awareness of the oppression and exploitation women face in society, at work, and within family and deals with the conscious action taken by women and men to change the situation.
The development of citizenship can be traced back to ancient Greece. It included the rights to participate in city life but failed to include women, children, slaves, etc. Aristotle considered women as irrational creatures. This continued even in the medieval period. St. Thomas Aquinas considered women, “as an imperfect man and an incidental being.” I can quote many such theorists who considered women as greedy, impure, and vain beings. French Revolution saw massive participation of women but ironically women were denied citizenship rights. In 1791, Olymphe de Gouges, a French playwright published a pamphlet entitled ‘Declaration Of the rights of women and citizens ‘which was a response to the famous Declaration of Rights of women. She said that a woman was not simply the same as a man, she was his equal partner. Women are rational, can actively take part in politics, and can bring change.
Only 33% of the seat is reserved for women in the lower house of parliament and all state legislatures. People question the need for reservation for women but often ignore the cause behind it. Women have long battles before they can claim their rights. To even fight for those basic amenities that were and is easily available for men, is a privilege for many women. Being a man naturally makes one inheritor of all benefits. Feminists never demand some luxurious things. They simply want those things that are rightfully THEIRS; without violating someone else’s rights.