“Zealous reformers, Deadly Laws”

April 12th, 2008 - 5:17 pm ICT by admin  

By Sanjay Kumar
New Delhi, Apr.12 (ANI): Madhu Purnima Kishwar or Madhu Kishwar, as she is popularly known defies convention in many ways and is always up in arms against system or law which tries to suppress the voice of women or suppressed class.
Her new book “Zealous Reformers, Deadly Laws: Battling Stereotypes” takes on existing laws which fail to address and provide relief to women.
The book delves deeply into legislation and law enforcement to explore the reasons why laws enacted for the purpose of enforcing women’s rights in India end up producing such dismal results.
A running theme in the book is the need to adopt a culturally sensitive approach to social reform that respects the aspirations and cherished values of those in whose lives we wish to introduce changes.
“Zealous Reformers, Deadly Laws: Battling Stereotypes” is a collection of articles written in the span of twenty five years.
Several of these articles offer critique of various laws proposed or enacted with much fanfare in the last two and half decades, ostensibly for the purpose of strengthening women’s rights. Another set of articles deal with common stereotypes regarding women’s role and status in Indian society, as well as the social and cultural norms that many believe are responsible for the supposedly uniformly low and vulnerable position of women in our country.
These over simplistic conclusions have come to acquire so much salience that the complex reality of women’s lives, as well as those aspects of our culture that serves as a source of strength to women, are undermined.
One of the main purposes of several of these articles is to try and demonstrate the harmful outcomes that inevitably flow from political interventions based on such simplistic stereotypes.
The book talks about “big and growing gap between legislation on various issues and the actual practices prevalent in our society.”
Madhu Kishwar in the book says that the biggest violators of these laws are those in high positions in the government. She says that the biggest violators of the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 are those in the high positions in the government. Kishwar finds out that the biggest dowry transactions take place among the families of educated elites, especially those in high positions in the government, with the elite administrative services, like IAS, IPS and IRS topping the list.
She also cites the example of the Child Marriage Restraint Act passed way back in 1929. The law continues to be violated with parents “marrying off their daughters before permissible age.”
Despite all the lacunae in the laws the book is “neither pessimistic nor nihilistic” in its approach to social reform.
“Zealous Reformers, Deadly Laws: Battling Stereotypes” is a political autobiography of the author. Kishwar besides being critical of laws and the women’s movement also admits the mistake she has committed and “how she has had to rethink and rework her own strategies over the years.
Sage publication has brought out this book, which has the history of bringing out socially relevant collection to the reach of readers. (ANI)

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