Feminist Psychologies in India
- Vindhya UndurtiVindhya UndurtiTata Institute of Social Sciences, School of Gender Studies
There is no explicitly defined field as feminist psychology(ies) in India. It is therefore necessary to look beyond the discipline of psychology and examine the scholarship available in other disciplines as well as in activist efforts to illumine questions that are of concern to feminist psychology(ies)—questions of how inequitable access to resources, disproportionate burden of care giving and gender stereotypical identities impact on gender relations and on women’s well-being and identity. From the interface of psychology with feminisms, three thematic areas emerge against the backdrop of past and contemporary socio-political developments in the country that have directly or indirectly influenced and informed the content and direction of research in these thematic areas. The three key themes are (a) mental health and well-being and the influence of the interlinked perspectives of gender, public health, human rights and social justice on this field, (b) gender-based violence and the evolution of psychosocial interventions for reduction and prevention of violence, and (c) the socio-historical construction of identities and the construction of masculinities in particular and that of the “modern Indian woman” in the conundrum of tradition and modernity.
First, the literature on gender and mental health emphasizes the need to connect mental health with social determinants, demonstrates the existence of gender bias in access to mental health services, shows that women are represented more in common mental disorders whose aetiology is associated with the social position of women, and highlights the relationship of gender-specific risk factors such as domestic violence to the occurrence of depression in women.
Second, the body of work on interventions for reducing and preventing gender-based violence shows services such as one-stop centers hinged on a psychosocial intervention model; and women’s collectives for alternate dispute resolution based loosely on feminist principles, serving as a platform for voicing and recognition of violence and connecting survivors to institutional services.
Third, the socio-historical context of identity construction reveals masculinity as a product of interplay of the colonizing and colonized cultures in the nationalist period of pre-independence India, the subsequent turn to “aggressive Hindu communalism” as a model for masculinity and the construction of femininity in the conundrum of tradition and modernity.
Thus, despite e some influence and infusion of perspectives on each other, feminisms and psychology in India continue to run parallel to each other, and feminist psychology(ies) in India remains an indistinct field as yet.