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Indian Governance Feminism and the 2013 Rape Law Reforms

A Bittersweet Moment

Based on a mapping of Indian feminist interventions on the law of rape over the past three decades, culminating in the wide-ranging law reforms following the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in December 2012, it is argued that Indian feminism displays key characteristics of governance feminism. In particular, Indian governance feminism is deeply committed to a highly gendered understanding of sexual violence. Further, Indian feminism has increasingly resorted to the use of the criminal law to address sexual violence even as its historical suspicion of postcolonial state power has reduced considerably and is now mostly evident in its opposition to the death penalty for rapists. A robust culture of state feminism has ensured that feminist ideas find a foothold in state institutions and indeed state laws. It is hoped that by demystifying feminists’ roles in law reform processes, we can begin to assess the intended and unintended consequences of such influence and resultant legislative successes.

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