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Conceptualizing Gender Justice

Maithreyi Krishnaraj

Edited by Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay and Navsharan Singh
Zubaan, an imprint of Kali for Women, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 358, Rs. 495.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

The book’s conceptualization of gender justice as both an outcome and a process is a refreshing departure from the conventional approach where one or the other is high-lighted. After all it is the process that shapes the outcome. It is the means and ends connection. In the current overemphasis on so called empowerment of women, this critical insight is lost sight of. The taken for grantedness of social institutions that uphold gender inequality obscures the processes that engineer this outcome. Anne Marie’s introduction is worth considering for the way it summarizes the dialectics involved in understanding gender construction and its maintenance. She argues that although discussion of gender justice have many different starting points they share similar unresolved dilemmas because our philosophical considerations about human nature, rights and capabilities are linked to practical political and economic arrangements in order to establish entitlements that are attached to citizenship and to the problems of blatant discrimination or hidden biases in law and legal practice. This is illustrated by the four regional perspectives offered from Latin America, Carribean, SubSaharan Africa and South Asia. The contributing authors apart from Maitrayee herself are: Anne Marie Goetz, Maxine Molyneux, Ratna Kapur, Celestine Nyamu Musembi, Mornira Maya Charrad.   The introduction defines outcome as implying access to and control over resources combined with agency. The process on the other hand refers to accountability in terms of their assigned responsibility of institutions that are agents for upholding justice. My disquiet about this emphasis on ‘access and control’ of resources is that one forgets an important caveat—namely utilization of resources require time, a serious limitation in the case of women who are burdened with mandatory responsibilities for the family. Even when agency is available this agency often is exercised in favour of others in the family rather than on their own well being. They do what they are expected to do. There is the case of land rights won on behalf of Ho tribals by activists which the women then bequeathed to their sons. Even in progressive Left government run states in India land reform did not confer rights to women as an independent constituency. Secondly gender justice cannot come so long as the sexual division of labour remains intact. A man can decide not to work or work at what he thinks is not demeaning to his manhood but a woman invariably takes up whatever is ...

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