Since the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in 2012 India has generated an enormous amount of national and international media attention and a reputation for sexual violence, pointing to the country’s “endemic problem” (Washington Post, 2012). The rape led to widespread protests, by students and wider society, particularly in Delhi. Notwithstanding these recent events, rape has long been, in fact, a catalyst for feminist and social movement responses in India. This paper will focus on three cases of ‘stranger rape’ that have been valourized as pivotal moments for feminist activism on sexual violence within the country. Reformulating the concept of the critical event as sites of potential ambivalence for Indian feminists the paper explores the manner in which feminist activism on rape in India has shifted since the 1970s. Through the eyes of various feminist actors, from various age groups, the paper examines whether the ideological, social and policy consequences of these events can be perceived as empowering for feminist activism in India. Ultimately, these transformations highlight some of the strengths, problems and dilemmas of Indian feminist political action in the 21st century, particularly faced with the gender challenges of a rapidly globalising neo-liberal Indian political economy.

Author Biography

Dr. Geetanjali Gangoli, PhD is Senior Lecturer, Centre for Gender and Violence Research, University of Bristol. She has researched and published widely on issues relating to a wide range of gender-based violence, including domestic and sexual abuse, forced marriage, crimes in the name of honour and Female Genital Mutilation; and social movement responses, particularly feminist responses in the UK, India and China. She has edited the journal Policy & Politics and is currently co-editor of the Journal of Gender Based Violence. Corresponding author. Email: g.gangoli@bristol.ac.uk.

Professor Aisha K. Gill, Ph.D., FRSA, CBE is Professor of Criminology, University of Roehampton, UK. Her main areas of research are health and criminal justice responses to violence against black, minority ethnic and refugee women in the UK, Iraqi Kurdistan, India, and Pakistan. She has been involved in addressing problems of violence against women and girls/, 'honour' crimes, forced marriage, sexual violence and female genital mutilation. She is Co-Chair of End Violence Against Women Coalition, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and editorial member of the Feminist Review Collective. Email: a.gill@roehampton.ac.uk.

Dr. Martin Rew, PhD used to work at the University of Birmingham till 2018, in the International Development Department, University of Birmingham. His research interests were development anthropology and gender and violence, religion and development, particularly in India. He is currently retired from academic life. Email: m.j.rew@btinternet.com.