The final day of Lady Shri Ram College’s Genderknowledge started as brilliantly as the previous ones, with a visual presentation of the Representation of Gendered Identities and Sexuality by Vidya Shivadas, art intellectual and Director of the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, moderated by LSR professor Jonathan Koshy. The presentation carried throughout John Berger’s theoretical framework of the ‘ways of seeing’ as defining and shaping the ways of being. Shivadas started her presentation with a quote from George Baselitz, an acclaimed German artist who said that the biggest problem with women artists was that none of them could actually paint! She then took the audience through both Indian and European works of art throughout history that showed how gender has been structured. The works she displayed also reflected the reciprocal nature of vision, and raised questions of nude paintings, women artists and feminist art.

Following this was a performance that is difficult to capture in words, a performance that had to be seen to be believed – Mallika Taneja’s ‘Thoda Dhyaan Se’. A one act play that captured the entire culture of victim blaming, it was described aptly by Mr. Ravinder, LSR professor as an ‘act of epic proportions’. It also reflected the power of mediums like theatre and art in expressing and showcasing the issue of gendered violence.

The first plenary ended with an overwhelming panel discussion on masculinities – the distinguished panel was moderated by Karuna Rajeeva and Sameer Chopra, Professors of the LSR English Department, and consisted of eminent filmmaker Rahul Roy, professor and poet Akhil Katyal and PhD student Vikramaditya Sahai. The idea that masculinity ‘demands’ of men to never speak about what it is to be men, or how one feels if one is a man and the intrinsic connections between masculinity and violence were deconstructed by Rahul Roy, and drawn on by Akhil Katyal who put several questions of sexuality in South Asia in particular historical contexts – speaking of how India has always had ‘same sex desire’ but the word ‘samlaingikta’ is contemporary, and can therefore, not be used to describe all same sex desire that has ever existed on the subcontinent. He then spoke about the various terms used to understand homosocial behaviour in popular hindi porn culture – gaybaaazi, laundabaazi, and ‘gandi aadat’ and how they influence perceptions on homosexuality. The most lively, though, was Vikramaditya Sahai – identifying as queer and having draped a saree on male body. The use of the body as a symbol of resistance, a mark of protest as well as critiquing the queer movement from within were some poignant and important contributions Vikramadtiya made not only to our understanding of masculinity, but also queer theory and politics.


Plenary two, or the afternoon session was themed ‘The womb and beyond’, and started with a panel discussion on gender and health, moderated by Parul Bansal and Priyanka Banerjee, consisting of Dr. Anoop Dhar (who beautifully decoded the perceptions of mental health and gender throughout the centuries believing that what we see today is the ‘Mcdonalidization of Mental Health Institutions), Gynecologist Dr. Puneet Bedi (who complicated the idea of reproductive freedoms that come with safe abortion and contraception and linked them to the still prevalent practice of female feticide) and Deepa ji ( who gave us an insight into the tabooed practice of surrogacy, the objectification of women’s bodies that it leads to and the general stigma around the practice.)
This was followed by the screening of Vani Subramanium’s ‘It’s a boy’ which brought out interesting contemporary patriarchal practices and modern technologies being used for the patriarchal agenda (sex selective abortions, MMS scandals etc).


The congress came to a close with “Daastan Goi: The Lost Art Form of Urdu Story-Telling” which was performed by Manu Sikander Dhingra and Nadeem Shah and directed by Mahmood Faroogu. Ms. Sonali Mishra, Assistant Professor of History at LSR, introduced their session. It consisted of the narration of an Urdu ‘dastaan’ called Chauboli about women, wit, and standing up for one another in an oppressive system.


This was followed by the final performance by Asmita theatre group, “Dastak: Voice against women atrocities” directed by Arvind Gaur  highlighting the heinous violence and harassment against women in public and personal spheres.

Image Credit: Sahiba Chawdhary for DU Beat

The second day of Genderknowledge, the LSR Academic Congress saw yet another set of fantastic panels, lectures and performances, and yet another smitten, awed audience.

The first plenary of the day was called “Humari Awaaz Suno: Gender and Marginalized Voices”, which started with distinguished a panel of distinguished filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and exemplary scholar Gopal Guru, moderated by Dr. Sunalini Kumar, LSR Professor. Prof. S Thoarat, Chairman of the ICSSR was also to be there but could not make it due to ill health. The panel discussed in depth the operations of caste and gender in India – with Gopal Guru speaking about the institution of marriage (something unique to the human species) as performing almost arbitrarily, the function of reproducing caste. Anand Patwardhan showed the caste and gender nexus differently, but equally powerfully – through clippings of some of his most beautiful films – Waves of Revolution (Kranti ki Tarange) and Father, Son and Holy War (His famous film Jai Bhim Comrade has already been screened as a pre-congress event a few days back).


Session two gave us a different way of looking at gender and marginalized voices, with a panel consisting of renowned feminist writer and publisher Urvashi Butalia, Sunita Choudhary – north India’s first woman to become an auto rickshaw driver, Meenu Vadera (Secretary, Azad Foundation and Director, Sakha Consulting Wings Pvt. Ltd.) along with three women who drive Taxis at Sakha – Shanti, Saroj – the guest of honour though seemed implicitly to have been Baby Haldar, a domestic worker whose three books have been translated in multiple languages and read across the world. The session was moderated by LSR professor Dr. Nayana Das Gupta. Each of these women spoke of their lives, their experiences and many in tears.

The first half of the day also had a musical interlude by Azaad Parindey, a choir from Azad foundation. Azaad Parindey is a choir formed by a group of trainee drivers at Sakha. Their music was filled with inspiring lyrics, which the audience enjoyed a lot. The first half ended with the screening of the documentary “Fragments of a Past” by Uma Chakravarthy. Uma Chakravarty is a feminist historian. The documentary focuses on the life and works of a woman political activist. The screening was followed by a round of questions with Uma Chakravarty. The session was moderated by Bindu Menon.

The afternoon plenary was moderated by the Principal Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath and started with a lecture by the acclaimed Feminist theorist Mary.E John – her analysis on issues of violence and sexuality in India – especially discussions on the Ramisabi Case and the Mathura case were extremely intriguing. Further, she gave us a sense of the violence of exclusion in the Indian workspace – where only 15% women are getting paid for work.

This was followed by a documentary screening by filmmaker Shikha Trivedi, called Safe City Dialogues, which touched on many issues of how we look at safety, security, violence and gender.

March 6th also saw two round-table conferences on ‘Redefining Responsibility: Beyond Glass Ceiling’ with the first panel consisting of Mr. Pramod Bhasin, Former CEO, Genpact; Ms. Reema Nanavati, SEWA; Ms. Mitu Samar, CRISIL; Ms. Renu Kakar, Apeejay Surendra Group and Mr Ravi Mohan Sethi, Stellar Group of Companies. The second panel included Ms. Shahnaz Hussain, Shahnaz Herbal Inc.; Ms. Chavi Rajawat, Sarpanch, Soda Village; Mr. Rajnish Dutta, Yes Bank; Mr. Manav Subodh, Intel Corporation; Geetanjali Ghate and Ms. Jasmeet Kaur Srivastava, The Third Eye. The panel was moderated by Ms. Shweta Rajpal Kohli, Economic Affairs Editor, NDTV.


 Ms. Kohli sparked of the discussion by asking the students for the meaning of “glass ceiling” in the corporate sector. With this definition, Mr. Bhasin claimed that these constraints exist while Mr. Sethi advised the girls to be realistic about their aspirations, at the same time, Ms. Chavi blamed the education system for the restrictions on women. Ms. Mitu Samar mentioned that some companies are moving towards the change. Ms. Reema from her experience of working for SEWA explained that with appropriate facility and availability, women prove to be good risk takers.

The concluding panel of the day however, was most apt to end a discussion on violence – we had Bhawari Devi (a rape survivor from Rajasthan) tell us her story, giving us a sense of how much we do have today thanks to women like her who chose to fight it out. Dr. Gopinath beautifully introduced her with the words “Inhone apni awaaz uthai, isiliye humne apni awaaz paayi”. Kavita Srivastava from Vishakha, an NGO in Rajasthan that played a vital role in the Sexual Harrasment at the Workplace law spoke next, explaining the intricacies and complexities of Bhawari Devi’s story.

Image Credit: Sahiba Chawdhary

Day one of Genderknowledge – the Academic Congress organized by Lady Shri Ram College for Women – started this morning with the welcome address by the Principal Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath, who set the stage beautifully for the day to progress. She spoke about notions of gender, violence against women, queer politics and ended with a few verses of the beautiful poem titled Silence by LSR alum Anasuya Sengupta.

Kamla Bhasin gives the keynote address.

After this, the audience was floored by Kamla Bhasin, renowned feminist and founding member of Jagori NGO, who touched upon so many issues so beautifully in so little time – she quoted a German feminist saying ‘’Women are the last colony, all others have been liberated.’’ She spoke of the male point of view which is the crux of every institutionalized structure we see today, focusing especially on religion and the idea of a masculine God. She then moved on to talk about the capitalist patriarchies we live in today, and the usefulness of the sex gender distinction in understanding these. She also explained other axis of power along which patriarchy operates – caste, class, religion – all of which could not function without patriarchy and control over women’s sexuality and reproduction. The solutions she gave to these problems were inspiring and overwhelming all the same – her spirit itself gave the entire auditorium the will to fight the system, and the song she sang and the slogans she recited (“hum abla se sable banenge saathi’’ and ‘’sun lo ab sab baat humari, ab din humara, raat humari, bus humari, train humari’’) were on everyone’s lips.


The next address was by Kirin Mehra-Kerpelman, LSR alum and the Director of the UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan, who read out the special message sent by UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon on account of the upcoming Women’s Day. The General’s Secretary’s address raised issues of productivity and its inherent links with women’s empowerment.


This was followed by a performance by Dr. Maya Krishna Rao – an eminent theatre personality, teacher and performer, who performed her piece created post December 16th called The Walk. The standing ovation she got after did more justice to her performance than words could ever be capable of. Later in the day Dr. Nivedita Menon said that Dr. Rao’s performance expressed beautifully how we need not to lead, but to walk together in this fight against patriarchy.

The release of a survey done by the LSR Statistics Department took place next by Kamla Bhasin and Rebecca Reichmann Tavares. The survey, which was on gender perceptions among college students again, gave some interesting perspectives on how most of us see, live and breathe gender in our everyday lives.


The morning session then concluded with an enlightening panel discussion called ‘Yeh gender vender kya hai’ with Shivani Kapoor, LSR professor, moderating the panel of Dr. Nivedita Menon (renowned feminist and professor at JNU), Dr. Rebecca Reichmann Tavares (UN Women’s Representative for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka) and Sunita Dhar (Chairperson, Jagori). Each speaker approached the question in different ways – speaking of how urban governance and policy planning is effecting women and creating gendered spaces to problematizing notions of gender, social constructions, masculinity and femininity. (Check our liveblog for more details)

Image Credit: Sahiba Chawdhury

The afternoon session started with a panel discussion with Vrinda Grover (human rights lawyer and women’s rights advocate) and Jagmati Sanghwan (AIDWA) moderated by LSR Professor Megha Dhillon. They ‘Unpacked’ the Bill of Rights given by the Justice Verma committee and spoke of their own experiences of working with the gendered and obviously patriarchal Indian state.


The day ended with a multi media experience in the form of a musical reading of Jorasanko – a book by Aruna Chakravarty on influential women in the Tagore Household. The reading focused specifically on the lives of Jnanandini and Kadambari Debi, and ended with the tragic suicide of the latter, who was also the first person to recognize Rabindranath Tagore’s flare for poetry.