ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Justice versus Emancipation

A Feminist Evaluation

The recent intervention by the Supreme Court to allow an abortion beyond the 20-week limit in extenuating circumstances is an important milestone in the fi ght for women's rights over their bodies. It is a victory for women's emancipation from the narrow purview of the law, which in its bid to uphold legal justice, compromises social justice. The judgment also strengthens the case for an overhaul of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, which has been long overdue.

Feminist ideology in the 21st century is showing signs of having reached the limits of the discourse of justice. So it is heartening to see that it is gradually taking its good fight to a realm beyond justice, in pursuit of emancipation from the shackles of legal dogma that cannot always address ground realities. This was in evidence in the recent intervention by the Supreme Court in the question of allowing abortion for a 14-year old rape survivor in the 25th week of her pregnancy, much later than the permissible statutory limit of 20 weeks.

The feminist movement began its struggle for justice with what Anne Phillips has famously coined the “politics of presence.” The term encompasses political and legal rights for women, such as suffrage, political representation, inheritance rights, equal pay, etc. Having made considerable strides in this area, the movement has gradually moved the struggle to what can be termed now as the “politics of bodies”—issues including sex work, pornography, abortion rights, etc.

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