The Ambedkar Memorial lecture
The 6th Dr. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture (AML) is on “Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s Thoughts on Women’s Emancipation” and the lecture will be delivered by renowned sociologist, Dr. Sharmila Rege.
She has done extensive work in the fields of Sociology of Gender, Social Theory, Dalit Studies and Cultural Studies. She is currently the Director of the Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre, in the University of Pune.
The lecture is intended to deliberate on the issues of women from both Dalit and women’s movements. Linking up with the present scenario, the lecture would attempt to throw light on women’s issues from the perspective of Dr. Ambedkar and his role in women’s emancipation.
Tata institute of Social Sciences,
Convention Centre, Naoroji Campus,
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Timing: 5pm- 9pm
Here’s how the theme of the lecture has been conceptualised.
“We shall see better days soon and our progress will be greatly accelerated if male education is persuaded side by side with female education…”[*]
Dr. Ambedkar – the determined fighter and a deep scholar, secured the highest academic honors from some of the most prestigious universities of the world. The strongest dalit leader of modern India who stood against Indian unjust society and faught for Dalits rights (Women, SC, ST, and Minorities) to have emerged till date, he represented the dalits at several national and international forums, at a time when they were deprived from various aspects of life.
He went ahead to become the chairman of the Drafting Committee and drafted the Constitution incorporating the concerns of all sections of the nation. He worked on wide range of issues concerning dalits. He made significant efforts to lead the society s on the path of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
Dr Ambedkar believed in the strength of women and their role in the process of social reform. His academic paper ‘Caste in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development’ specifically talks about women and states that “there is no divine or natural cause of origin of caste but Brahmins of ancient India craftily designed it by enclosing their class through means of controlling and subjugating their woman.” He also made women’s issue as an integral part of his fortnightly newspapers – Mooknayak and Bahiskrit Bharat.
The historic Mahad Satyagraha witnessed participation of three hundred women along with their male counterparts. Addressing another meeting of about 3000 women, he said,
“I measure the progress of community by the degree of progress which women had achieved. Let every girl who marries stand by her husband, claim to be her husband’s friend and equal, and refuse to be his slave. I am sure if you follow this advice, you will bring honour and glory to yourselves.”
He strongly advocated for family planning measures for women in Bombay Legislative Assembly. In 1942, being a Labour Minister of Executive Council of Governor General, he introduced a Maternity Benefit Bill. He provided several provisions in the constitution for protecting the welfare and civil rights of women. He introduced the Hindu Code Bill in the Parliament and highlighted the issues women’s property rights. The bill received strong opposition from many political leaders. In turn, Dr. Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet expressing his discontent over non acceptance of woman’s rights by the parliament.
Besides, he highlighted the issues of Muslim women. His secular perspective is known through his thoughts on ‘Purdah’ (Veil) system, religious conversions and legal rights for Muslim women. In short, along with the depressed class women, his thoughts for emancipation of all the women are expressed with same allegiance.
Locating Dalit Women in Ambedkar’s Thoughts
Women bearing the dual identity of dalit and women and belonging to low economic strata, undergo double marginalization and triple subjugation in society. The patriarchal nature of the religious systems restricts the development of women and reduces them merely to a pleasure deriving entity for men. The practices like child marriage, opposition to widow re-marriage, sati and other such practices are employed to subjugate women and religious texts and scriptures are referred to justify these acts.
1970s witnessed two powerful movements- the Dalit Panther Movement and Women’s Movement. They provided a platform to voice out people’ issues but both the movements did not articulate the issues of downtrodden amongst the downtrodden i.e. dalit women. In spite of being an active supporter and an integral part, their issues were sidelined from the entire process of agitation.
Though the problems of dalits are far from being resolved, Ambedkar Memorial Lecture (AML) envisages the need to spread awareness by evoking curiosity about his thoughts on women.
This year’s Ambedkar Memorial Lecture is being organized by students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences on the thoughts of Dr. Ambedkar on women’s emancipation. The aim is to learn about Ambedkar’s philosophy concerning women and ways of incorporating them in the political process for building a just society.
The lecture would aim towards learning the factors on missing dalit women’s issues from both dalit and women’s movement. Linking up with the present scenario, the lecture would look forward to throw a light on women’s issues, particularly of dalit women through the perspective of Dr. Ambedkar.
We seek to learn more on women emancipation and more importantly, about Dr. Ambedkar’s enduring principles to solve the problems of half the world.
[*] Dr. Ambedkar’s words during his studies at New York