Shruti Iyer


This paper examines the critique of what has been termed as “governance feminism” and analyses its conceptual utility with reference to the legal reform process undertaken in India in the aftermath of the Delhi anti-rape demonstrations of late 2012-early 2013. Governance feminism refers to the process by which feminists influence institutional decisions and policy, and critiques of governance feminism focus on its tendency to maintain an equivalence between womanhood and victimhood, and its blindness to unintended consequences of feminist legal reform. This paper will reflect on the critiques that have been made of governance feminist interaction with the state, and examine their exportability to the Indian context, with reference to Indian feminist engagement with the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) that was set up to make recommendations to the criminal law. I will go on to argue that the critiques that have been made of governance feminist intervention in the West have limited exportability to the Indian context. The insights of the governance feminist critique remain invaluable, and the methodological emphasis that it places on unintended consequences are of relevance to Indian feminists who (like any feminist movement) do not operate as a monolithic movement, but are constantly negotiating unstable political categories and identities. However, this paper will pay attention to the fact that where the Indian feminist movement was self-critical in its recommendations for legal reform, they were largely unsuccessful in having them reflected in the Ordinance and Act later passed. In the light of this, it will argue that while the governance feminist critique tends to espouse taking a break from feminism to account for other justice projects, the Indian feminist’s experience suggests that feminists may be better off taking a break from the state.

Author Biography

Shruti Iyer is an undergraduate student of Politics, Philosophy, and Law at King's College London. She was awarded a King's Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2015 and has worked on race relations legislation and its relationship to policing in the UK, and is currently working on a project on policing technologies and "big data". She is Vice-President of the King's College London Intersectional Feminist Society, and currently lives and writes between London and Bangalore.