Who started feminism in India?

Answered by Antonio Sutton

The feminist movement in India can be traced back to the 19th century, when several remarkable women emerged as pioneers in the fight for gender equality and women’s rights. Two key figures who played a significant role in starting feminism in India were Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai.

Tarabai Shinde, born in 1850, was a social reformer and activist who is considered one of the earliest feminist thinkers in India. In 1882, she penned a groundbreaking piece of literature titled “Stri Purush Tulana” (A Comparison Between Women and Men), which is regarded as the first modern Indian feminist text. In this work, Shinde challenged the prevailing patriarchal norms and highlighted the injustices faced by women in Indian society. She critiqued the oppressive practices such as child marriage, polygamy, and the denial of education and property rights to women.

Pandita Ramabai, born in 1858, was another pioneering figure in the Indian feminist movement. She was a social reformer, scholar, and champion for the emancipation of women in British India. Ramabai was vocal about the need for women’s education and empowerment. She established the Arya Mahila Samaj (Association for the Education of Women) in 1882, which provided education and support to widows and other marginalized women. Ramabai’s work focused on challenging societal norms that restricted women’s freedom and agency, advocating for their rights to education, and addressing issues such as widow remarriage and the plight of child widows.

Both Shinde and Ramabai faced significant opposition and criticism for their progressive ideas. They were trailblazers in a society that was deeply entrenched in conservative traditions and gender inequality. Their writings and activism laid the foundation for the feminist movement in India and inspired many future generations of women to fight for their rights.

It is important to note that feminism in India is not a monolithic movement and has evolved and diversified over time. Many other influential figures and organizations have contributed to the feminist discourse in the country. However, the contributions of Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai cannot be overlooked, as they were among the earliest voices to challenge gender inequality and advocate for women’s rights in India.

Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai were instrumental in starting the feminist movement in India. Through their writings, activism, and advocacy, they laid the groundwork for the fight against gender inequality and the empowerment of women. Their legacy continues to inspire and shape the feminist movement in India today.