From Sudan to Algeria and Lebanon to India- the images of female protestors are catching the imaginations of millions around the world. These images of female protestors have become icons of defiance and struggle. They are the new icons of democratic struggle and change.
The young women are defying all odds to express themselves politically on the streets. One story of inspiration and courage after the other is coming out. They are facing family opposition on the one hand and brutality of Indian state on the other. They are being dragged on the roads and brutally beaten. Their only crime is that they are fighting for secular and democratic India and against fascism and hate.
But they are coming on the street to show their determination and courage. It is not an easy task to be young female activists in our part of the world including India. Young people, particularly women, have been at the forefront of the ongoing wave of protests over the law, but this can be dangerous in a largely conservative and patriarchal society.
Politics and protest is considered taboo for young women. The conservative families discourage young female students to actively take part in political activity. Many young women denied the right to get higher education. The higher education of young women is not the priority for many families. The parents would have rather spent money the wedding than on higher education.
Although the number of women in higher education in India has risen in the past few years to comprise 47.6 percent of the students currently enrolled, the societal expectation is for women to remain passive bystanders when it comes to political protest.
The women in India are the victims of rising sectarianism- casteism-communalism- hatred- bigotry- sexism-gender suppression- inflation and unemployment. All kinds of restrictions are being imposed on women in the name of family honour and traditions. They feel the urgent need to protest because they don’t want to lose the freedoms they have fought so hard for at home and outside.
Women have known the art of protest, having constantly taken to the streets throughout history when it came to defending their rights. Be it the suffragette movement or women’s right to education and equal pay as well as safety, women are no strangers to protest. But 2019 saw a wide array of women come to the forefront not just for issues affecting women but the entire population.
In fact, people across the world are fighting for their right to economic, political and religious equality and the right to safety and education. And while different groups of people protested for a variety of reasons, one thing was common – the heavy prevalence and participation of women.
Be it the face of revolution in Sudan, the face of the global fight against climate change, the face of strength in the face of police brutality in Assam or the face of defiance when confronting attacks on the right to free speech and assembly– women were at the forefront.
The images and videos of women protesters have been going viral on social media. An image that initially went viral was of three women standing on a wall as they address hundreds of protesters on Friday in Delhi.
So far one of the most iconic images for the Young girls like Ayesha Renna and Ladeeda Farzana- the Jamia students who valiantly took on the might of the Indian state, have overnight become icons of struggle. All three are students at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. Also two of them are from Kerala.
Another picture that went viral was of a student in one of Jamia’s hostels who stood up to police as they beat up another male protester. The video went viral and screenshots of the woman in a defiant pose were widely shared in criticism of Delhi Police. Like “Shield Girl”, this woman also inspired artworks.
The determination and defiance of young women like Ayesha Renna and Ladeeda Farzana have become more visible in recent years. The 2012 anti-rape movement in India galvanised mass support and stirred the consciousness of many teenage students at that time. Since then, women’s participation at demonstrations has grown with the help of women-led movements.
As protests continue against India’s contentious anti-secular Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that excludes Muslims and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), some of the key images galvanising demonstrators are that of young women on the front lines – dancing and singing defiantly, holding witty posters-protecting the fellow male protesters from police brutality and gathering in public places in large numbers across the country.
When a number of students were beaten up by the police on December 15 at Jamia University, students at the on-campus hostel for girls from the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir provided first aid to some 150 female and male students. In August this year, the Indian occupied Kashmir was split into two union territories by the Indian government. The internet blackout and the communication blockade continue in Kashmir, now for more than 144 days.
The Kashmiri women are facing Indian military occupation- brutal repression-rapes and sexual abuse and all kind of restrictions. The stone throwing young school girls have emerged as the icon of Kashmiri struggle for their democratic and legitimate rights.
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