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Gender Equality vis-a-vis Personal Laws

The patriarchal system in India, evolved over centuries has created durable patterns of
attitudes and behaviour which make for the wide spread practice of treating women as
This paper explores how religion as a political force shapes and deflects the struggle for
gender equality in contexts marked by different histories of nation building and challenges of
ethnic diversity, different statesociety relations (from the more authoritarian to the more
democratic), and different relations between state power and religion (especially in the
domain of marriage, family and personal laws). It reflects how 'private' issues, related to the
family, sexuality and reproduction, have become sites of intense public contestation between
conservative religious actors wishing to regulate them based on some transcendent moral
principle, and feminist and other human rights advocates basing their claims on pluralist and
time- and context-specific solutions.
The author attempts to provide a starting point for how to think about creative remedies for
violations of womens rights, arguing that where cultural norms implicitly or explicitly
endorse womens inequality, remedies for violations of womens human rights that stem from
this inequality but that do not address the basis for it, will remain shallow at best. States
failure to provide adequate recourse for women who experience domestic violence is used as
an example to anchor the discussion on developing remedies that can effectively address and
unravel cultural norms that reinforce the prevalence of violence against women.