Simmering with Gender Violence: Does Kerala Call for Revisiting Empowerment?

Existing literature lays much emphasis on the role of women’s economic and educational progress in attaining gender equality and empowerment. This presumption appears to be contradictory when situated in context of recent evidence on growing violence against women in Kerala, highlighting the significance of women’s agency in the process of empowerment. 

"…in becoming mainstream, the concept (of empowerment) has lost much of its radical potential to challenge and change oppressive social relations." (Batliwala 1994)

Recent evidence on the growing violence against women in Kerala has made it one of the worst-ranking states in India, in terms of crimes against women (Hindustan Times 2017). This evidence has brought much perplexity to the discourses that uphold the state’s decent literacy and sex ratio levels as an indicator of women’s better status in Kerala. An immediate conclusion that may be drawn from this, as also noted by others elsewhere, is that improved well-being and literacy levels of women do not necessarily indicate transformation in gendered norms and attitudes. 

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