Today, I am excited to introduce Dr. Keerty Nakray, Associate Professor and Assistant Director, Centre for Women, Law and Social Change at the Jindal Global Law School, who has kindly taken time to speak with me about gender violence, budgeting and potential solutions in India. She has worked extensively on issues relating to gender violence, public health, and budgeting in India. Thanks so much to Dr. Nakray for her insights and valuable thoughts!
1. Tell me more about yourself. What led you to focus on gender violence, budgeting, and public health research and teaching?
My research interests have been shaped consistently over the last decade due to solid training in social theory and fieldwork in different parts of India. As a master’s student, I undertook field based research on reproductive and child health (RCH) in the rural areas of Maharastra, and that is the time I realized that most RCH policies leave women untouched. That was the turning point in my life, as I developed a strong interest in policy research, and thereafter I was clear that I will pursue specialist studies in that field. After working for one year closely with specific child welfare centric social policies that entailed working closely with children and their families, this commitment to pursue further studies was deepened. Following this work experience, I studied planning and development at Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, which again entailed an excellent mix of theory and field work, and it gave me a solid foundation to pursue a PhD. In IIT the topic of my dissertation was on gender budgeting and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (which is an education programme) in India; for the first time I realized that financial resources allocated to various developmental programmes were woefully low. Much of these experiences led to the culmination of my PhD research on gender budgets, social policy and HIV/AIDS in India. With each academic turn I took in life my respect for human life has deepened, and I uphold human rights at every level of my life, which has a profound impact on my research as well.
2. Gender based violence is such a complex and multifaceted problem, especially in India. Through your research, what do you see as the key obstacles to ending gender based violence in India?
Yes, indeed gender based violence is an extremely complex problem with clear roots in the patriarchal cultural ethos in the country. Unless there are substantial cultural changes along with greater empowerment of women through education and economic participation I see very little hope for women in India.
3. What do you see as a potential models or solutions to combat gender violence and empower women in India?
Better economic participation in the formal sectors of the country is likely to contribute to improving women’s status in the society.
4. What is the role of the government in combating violence against women? The role of NGOs? The international community?
Government’s role is at heart of interventions for gender based violence as it can really commit to women’s issues on legislative grounds of substantive equality. The international community should help the Indian government to develop its capabilities to undertake policy orientated research. The NGOs can potentially inform government interventions. I do believe that violence interventions should not be left solely to NGOs as the current levels of violence against women are completely unacceptable and cannot be addressed by NGOs.
5. I know you have done much research on gender budgeting. Can you talk a little about the importance of and impact of budgeting on issues of women’s rights in India?
Budgeting for women’s rights is about theoretically recognizing structural impediments to the realization of women’s citizenship in our society. Within the last five years I have seen more government officials more seriously talking about gender, however the needed structural shift has not taken place and changes taking place in women’s status is more to do with better education and need for women’s skilled labour in a rapidly growing Indian economy — and very little to change in laws or policies.
6. Does part of ending violence against women involves a shift in attitudes? If so, how can we move towards changing mindsets?
That is too easy an answer to a difficult question. Much of the violence against women is rooted in the systemic organization of our social institutions, and this violence is increasingly becoming invisible with an attempt to push women away from positions of power. I feel that unless we recognize that women’s identity is not only shaped by their gender but also intersects with their racial, religious, caste and ethnic identities. I have seen violence specifically targeted at women from marginalized groups and with little or no sympathy from women’s from privileged locations. I do not see a shift in women’s position happening unless current power hierarchies are pushed to substantive equality.