Four quirky feminist campaigns in India

Smashing patriarchy through catchphrases

Freestyle

News - India & You

February 9, 2017

/ By / Kolkata



Feminists in India are finding new ways to express themselves

Feminists in India are finding newer ways to express themselves

In an age where attention spans have turned shorter, Indian feminist movements have responded by adopting catchy names.

To address the wide forms of violence women and other gender minorities face in India, which as commonplace practices don’t command or receive much attention, feminists in India have taken to unique protests with quirky catchphrases. Taking up the everyday issues of eve-teasing, moral policing and domestic violence, to name a few, here are some movements from the past few years that have grabbed eyeballs for all the right reasons.

Bell Bajao

Bell Bajao, or ring the bell, was a campaign by Breakthrough India in 2008, aimed at addressing the issue of domestic violence, which is neither foreign, nor uncommon in India. Involving and encouraging busybodies to pry into lives of suspect abusers, also known as a ‘friendly neighbour’, this campaign directly addressed the role of men, who are usually on the other side of the violence, to interrupt overheard violence. Eventually sparking off public service announcements and copycat movements in different countries, Bell Bajao was a hit, even as it inspired ‘disrespect for the privacy’ of those engaging in domestic abuse.

Pink Chaddi

The Pink Chaddi, or pink underwear, campaign in 2009 saw Indians, in an urge to break away from their ‘Indian’ values, sending a south India political figure the garment closest to defining virtue – their underwear – as an expression of their love and admiration for him on Valentine’s Day. A unique protest was initiated by the call of a group on Facebook, titled ‘The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women’. In response to saffron-tinged violence by a right-wing political party that, as part of its ‘duty’, attacked women and couples who committed the ‘sin’ of enjoying themselves at a pub in Mangalore in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, pink underwear were sent to its leader, Pramod Muthalik, who was surprisingly arrested for taking this ‘responsible step’ of trying to attack women who he felt betrayed the Indian culture.

Chappal Marungi

A phrase that loosely translates to ‘I will hit you with slippers’, Chappal Marungi was the result of angry young women raging against the sexual violence that they face on the streets of India. Originally conceived by five students at a college in Mumbai, in western India, this campaign dared to propagate the unthinkable – fighting back against molesters and empowering women through self-defence training. While the campaign itself received much attention when it was launched almost six years ago, it has largely died out as a movement today.

Pinjra Tod

A movement initiated by college-going women in New Delhi, the Indian capital, in 2015, Pinjra Tod, or ‘Break the Cage’, brought forth a utopian vision by young women in India – freedom of movement at night. As providers of shelter to young women in exchange for rent money, hostels and PG accommodations in and around educational campuses have played their role in protecting the young women, through rules and regulations to ensure their safety, which is undoubtedly admirable. Pinjra Tod, highlighting that women too must have the right to loiter streets like their male counterparts, have challenged the discriminatory curfews and practices in some of the most elite institutions of the country, who perhaps by mistake, ‘miss out’ in addressing the actual perpetrators of crime through such practices.

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