Role of Governance in Combating Gender Based Violence: Structures and Strategies in India

Session Report
Reetwika Mallick

The Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted a four week Online National Spring School Program on ‘Ending Gender-based Violence – Cohort 2: Awareness of Policies & Governance’ from March 5th, 2024 to March 27th 2024.

The course, spread over four weeks, provided a unique opportunity to gain in-depth insight into understanding, addressing and eradicating gender-based violence. The course led by esteemed experts, empowered the participants to expand their thinking and enhance their understanding of challenges surrounding gender-based violence. The four-week duration allows for an in-depth exploration of the subject matter, fostering a collaborative learning environment where participants shared experiences, perspectives, and innovative solutions. Through a combination of engaging lectures, interactive workshops, networking, guidance by thematic experts and practical exercises.

Day 3 of the ‘Ending Gender-based Violence – Cohort 2: Awareness of Policies & Governance’,  Prof Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Principal, and Professor of Political Science, Miranda House, University of Delhi ,addressed issues around governance in combating gender-based violence.

Gender and Governance: Theoretical Lens

Prof Nanda commenced the session with locating violence in public as well as in private sphere. The public sphere was established as useful and productive and inhabited by men, while the private world was considered as spaces for women. Prof Nanda explained that, since violence was taking place within the private sphere, it was expected out of women to not bring this to public sphere. This distinction between public and private according to Prof Nanda led to the continuation of violence against women within the domestic spaces. This issue of restricting violence to the domestic space existed worldwide according to Prof Nanda.

In the session, Prof Nanda highlighted the crucial reason behind obstacles for women to access political processes as violence being perpetuated against them. Prof Nanda elucidated with several scholarly viewpoints on what is considered as personal, actually gets impacted and impacts the political. Jürgen Habermas in his works has delineated that even if an issue is not considered to be suitable for public spaces, the violation of human rights within those issues needs to be made public since it affects the participation of the oppressed groups within political processes. Hence, Prof Nanda reiterated what several feminist scholars believed, personal is political.

Modes of Gendered Governance: Addressing the Issue of Violence-

Taking the session forward, Prof Nanda highlighted the need to look at the gendered traits of the people who occupy positions at family, state and other institutions, in order to study the mode of patriarchy being supported by the institutions. The more powerful and structured the institution, the less likely, women or women’s interest will be well represented, explained Prof Nanda.

Prof Nanda outlined the requirement of designing a multi-pronged strategy to challenge patriarchy and associated violence against women, since different modes of gendered governance is present. Prof Nanda elucidated institutions can be challenged from entering and becoming a part of the organisation or challenging from outside through women’s activism.

How to Mediate Governance Through Gender-

Prof Nanda explaining how women encounter the state quoted Rajeswari Sunder Rajan’s works where she has mentioned that women either encounter the state as beneficiaries or as litigants. Violence against women is being addressed through legal provisions demanded by the women’s rights movement or by those working within the state institutions.

Elucidating the ways to mediate governance, Prof Nanda provided a nuanced approach towards locating power as capillary. Prof Nanda shared the works of Martha Nussbaum on making women capable for being able to exercise their rights. While Neerja Gopal Jayal, states along with capability, the states must also need to provide the women entitlements and rights to be able to access the rights provided.

Prof Nanda highlighted how women’s activism has engendered the state to the extent that the institutions could not ignore women’s rights. However, such an approach according to Prof Nanda is absent within the private sector. Prof Nanda gave several example including maternity leave and child care provisions being poor or absent within the private sector workplaces.

Concluding the session, Prof Nanda outlined the several paradoxes and challenges the women’s movement faces in terms of affirmative rights, women-centric schemes and other issues. Prof Nanda elucidated the need to build capacity of women, especially of those who are at the margins in order to have a more inclusive progress.  

Read more event reports of IMPRI here:

Foundations of Gender-based Violence: Historical Context and Definitions