Understanding Intersectionality in Feminist Discourse on Gender-Based Violence

Session Report
Nivedita Sinha

IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, in collaboration with its Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) conducted its second successful cohort of Feminism: Theory and Praxis between 23rd and 25th of January 2024. The goal of this program was to equip the participants with the analytical tools and vocabulary to understand the feminist and intersectionality movement ranging from its epistemology, its trajectory in history to its contemporary concerns and contentions.

Varieties of Feminism and the Intersectionality

Dr Linda Lane is a visiting professor at IMPRI, and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Social Work, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. After the first session on Feminist Epistemologies led by Dr Leena Pujari, Dr Linda Lane presented her insights on the topic “Varieties of Feminism and an Intersectional Perspective on Gender-based violence” for Session 2 of the program. She begins by rejecting the liberal feminist understanding that equality is possible to achieve if everybody has the same opportunities because of the fact that we all do not start off with the same set of opportunities as a result of our social location – be it class, caste, race, religion or sexuality.

When speaking of her personal transition from being a marxist-feminist (belief that capitalism is the root cause of women’s oppression) to becoming a radical feminist who believes that patriarchy is the reason for women’s oppression, she asked the audience the pertinent question of “What do you think is the root cause of women’s historical subjugation and oppression?”. When thinking of gender based violence, it is patriarchy and the threat of rape or physical violence that subjugates women universally, across the world. 

Intersectionality, first coined by black feminist, Kimberle Crenshaw argued that sexism, class oppression, gender, identity, and racism are inextricably bound together and they all reinforce and influence each other, complicating the individual’s experiences. These social categories are historical and have been constructed over a long time, building the oppression into the systems and the way they operate. 

Intersectionality is not only a theoretical perspective, but a call to action. An intersectional perspective is needed in order to understand the micro-inequalities of our everyday lives that are inevitably shaped by our belonging to various social groups. 

In the context of violence, these identities complicate each other in myriad ways. onceptualizing sexual violence as a purely gender-based issue is not an intersectional way of looking at the issue because it disregards the ways in which the individual’s caste, race, ability and age factor into the violence. Intersectionality helps us see that sexual violence does not affect all women equally.

She insists that we understand violence not only theoretically by means of making a “value neutral contribution, but in terms of action in order to make critical proposals for social change”. This attitude must follow us into our research, and we must first understand which group has been under-theorized, or left out of the narrative, and then acknowledge the fact that each of these different groups has varying levels of agency and can choose to reveal how much information they are comfortable revealing. 

By the end of Dr Linda Lane’s session, the participants had a clear grasp on the idea of intersectionality and how it is integral to feminism and discourse on gender-based violence. This awareness can be imperative to their research methodologies and analytical frameworks.

Acknowledgment: Reet Lath is a research Intern at IMPRI.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here:

Exploring Feminist Epistemology: Deconstructing Mainstream Paradigms and Cultivating Inclusive Knowledge