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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 38, September 13, 2014

Marital Rape in India: A Radical Feminist Perspective

Saturday 13 September 2014


by Tamanna Khosla


The marital rape exemption can be traced to statements by Sir Mathew Hale, Chief Justice in England, during the 1600s. He wrote: “The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given herself in kind unto the husband, whom she cannot retract.” Not surprisingly, thus, married women were never the subject of rape laws. Laws bestowed an absolute immunity on the husband in respect of his wife, solely on the basis of the marital relation. The revolution started with women activists in America raising their voices in the 1970s for elimination of the marital rape exemption clause and extension of the guarantee of equal protection to women.

A judge in India has officially confirmed that rape laws do not apply to married couples—once you’re legally wed, forced sex is no longer a crime. What’s especially chilling is that the judge, Virender Bhat, was hearing a case in which a woman alleged that she had been drugged, then forced to marry, and then raped—in other words, she hadn’t consented to the marriage or the sex. Bhat said there was no evidence that the accuser had been drugged, but he also said that if the woman’s husband (identified only as Vikash) had forced himself on her, that wouldn’t qualify as rape under Indian law. And again, activists have demanded that laws be amended to protect the survivors of marital rape. But even after the Nirbhaya assault, when laws dealing with crimes against women were made stricter, marital rape was not made a criminal offence. The law offers some protection to minor victims of marital rape but rape of a wife above 15 years of age is not punishable.

Statistics paint a disturbing picture about the condition of married women in our country. According to the UN Population Fund, more than two-thirds of married women in India, aged between 15 to 49, have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex. This isn’t the first time that marital rape has been an issue in India. Recently, after a student was raped and murdered in Delhi, a committee, headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice J.S. Verma, made a number of recommendations for improving India’s rape laws, including doing away with the marital rape exemption. According to the Verma Committee’s report, Under the Indian Penal Code sexual intercourse without consent is prohibited. However, an exception to the offence of rape exists in relation to un-consented sexual intercourse by a husband upon a wife. The Committee recommended that the exception to marital rape should be removed. Marriage should not be considered as an irrevocable consent to sexual acts.

Marital rape is illegal in countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Israel, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Russia and Poland. It is also an offense in 18 states in the US and three in Australia. A survivor of marital rape in the country can get some relief by filing a case against her husband under 498A IPC (husband subjecting his wife to cruelty). However, the section doesn’t clearly define the term cruelty and carries a maximum punishment of three years and fine.

II Sex as Tool of Oppression: A Feminist Literature Overlook

Several feminists have pointed out that sex is a tool with which men oppress women. And this is largely seen in the current legal scenario in india though the Justice Verma Committee Report spoke against this culture.

In 1987, Andrea Dworkin published Intercourse, in which she extended her analysis from pornography to sexual intercourse itself, and argued that the sort of sexual subordination depicted in pornography was central to men’s and women’s experiences of heterosexual intercourse in a male supremacist society. In the book, she argues that all heterosexual sex in our patriarchal society is coercive and degrading to women, and sexual penetration may by its very nature doom women to inferiority and submission, and “may be immune to reform”.

Citing from both pornography and literature—including The Kreutzer Sonata, Madame Bovary, and Dracula—Dworkin argued that depictions of intercourse in mainstream art and culture consistently emphasised heterosexual inter-course as the only kind of “real” sex, portrayed intercourse in violent or invasive terms, highlighted the violence or invasiveness as central to its eroticism, and often united it with the male contempt for, revulsion towards, or even murder of, the “carnal” woman. She argued that this kind of depiction enforced a male-centric and coercive view of sexuality, and that, when the cultural attitudes combine with the material conditions of women’s lives in a sexist society, the experience of heterosexual intercourse itself becomes a central part of men’s subordination of women, experienced as a form of “occupation” that is nevertheless expected to be pleasurable for women and to define their very status as women.

Such descriptions are often cited by Dworkin’s critics, interpreting the book as claiming “all” heterosexual intercourse is rape, or more generally that the anatomical mechanics of sexual intercourse make it intrinsically harmful to women’s equality. For instance, Cathy Young1 says that statements such as, “inter-course is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men’s contempt for women”, are reasonably summarised as “all sex is rape”.

Dworkin rejected that interpretation of her argument,2 stating in a later interview that “I think both intercourse and sexual pleasure can and will survive equality” and suggesting that the misunderstanding came about because of the very sexual ideology she was criticising: “Since the paradigm for sex has been one of conquest, possession, and violation, I think many men believe they need an unfair advantage, which at its extreme would be called rape. I do not think they need it.”3

According to Dworkin, marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership.

Women, according to French pasychoanalysts, have been highly skeptical of the attribution of a negative value to women’s relations to language (that is, they talk of how women get incorporated into the symbolic order, where binaries are constructed—one term example—man/mind/reason is given a positive value by being positioned as primary in relation to an opposite term which is negatively coded—women/body/passion) and of sexism implicit in the elevation of the phallus to the place of the transcendental signifier. Such a system is referred to as phallocentric and French feminist strategies of writing seek to disrupt this symbolic order. This is largely responsible for the subordinate position of women, they being relegated to the private as against public sphere. Thus issues like marital rape do not even get recognition in most countries especially countries like India. Catherine Mackinnon sets out to explain that oppression of women occurs through sexual subordination. Hence like Shulamith Firestone she appeals to the idea of women as class whose sexuality, like the proletariat’s labour, is exploited. In fact the anti-pornography campaign identifies subordination of women by sex as a linchpin of women’s oppression which perpetuates the dichotomy of gender.

III Why Does Marital Rape Happen?: A Play of Power 

Marital rape happens due to several issues such as exploitation, marginalisation, and cultural hegemony.

a) Exploitation:

Women feel exploited in the current liberal assimilatory political set-up. Exploitation as a concept has been used by several feminist and race theorists. The injustice of class division does not consist only in the fact that some people have great wealth while most people have little. Oppression occurs through a “steady process of the transfer of the results of the labour of the one social group to benefit another”4. The energies of have-nots are conti-nuously used to maintain and augment the power, status and wealth of haves.5

This is especially true about women world-wide. Feminists, according to Young, have had little difficulty showing that women’s oppression consists partly in a “systematic and unrecipro-cated transfer of powers from women to men”.6 Gender exploitation has two aspects: transfer of the fruits of material labour to men and transfer of nurturing and sexual energies to men. She points to the work of some Marxist feminists to look at a certain aspect of patriarchy 7 and how this transfer of labour takes place:

Firstly, Young uses Marxist feminist Christine Delphy‘s work to explain how in marriage women’s labour benefits men without comp-arable remuneration. She makes it clear that exploitation consists not in the sort of work that women do at home but in the fact that these tasks are performed for those on whom they are dependent. Secondly, Young further elaborates her theory by looking at the work of another Marxist feminist, Ann Ferguson, according to whom, women provide another form of the transference of women’s energies to men. Women provide men and children with emotional care and provide men with sexual satisfaction and as a group receive relatively little of either from men. Thirdly, she quotes David Alexander to argue that typically feminine jobs involve gender-based tasks requiring sexual labour, nurturing, caring for other’s bodies or smoothing over workplace tensions. In these ways women’s energies are expended in jobs that enhance the status of, please or comfort others, usually men. This is a prevalent work culture and works as a tacit glass ceiling which becomes almost impossible for any women to crack. Thus women are suited more as nurses (healers) than as doctors, clerks, officers.8

Similarly Young points out how race is a structure of oppression at least as basic as class or gender. According to her, there is no doubt that racialised groups in the US, especially Blacks and Latinos, are oppressed. For example, wherever there is racism, according to her, there is the assumption that members of the oppressed racial groups are or ought to be servants to the privileged groups. In most White racist societies this means that many White people have dark or yellow-skinned domestic servants and in the US today there remains significant racial structuring of private house-hold service: anyone who goes to a good hotel or a good restraint can have servants. Servants often attend the daily-and-nightly activities of business executives, government officials and other high status professionals. According to her, in the US there remains a strong cultural pressure to fill the servant jobs. In contrast high paying, skilled and unionised jobs are reserved for the Whites. Thus there is transfer of energy whereby the server enhances the status of the served.

b) Marginalisation:

Marginalisation is another concept which engages the concern of feminists, multicul-turalists and race theorists. Marginalisation is perhaps the most alarming form of oppression experienced by several kinds of minorities worldwide. There is a growing underclass of people permanently confined to the lives of social marginals. Margina-lisation means that “a whole category of people is expelled from useful participation in social life and thus potentially subjected to severe material deprivation and even extermination”. Examples of such people are the racially marked groups such as “Blacks or Indians in Latin America and Blacks, East Indians, Eastern Europeans or North Africans in Europe”.9

Many single mothers and their children, pregnant women, American Indians, especially those on reservation suffer unduly”.10 Marginali-sation means that that these groups are unfairly subjected to severe “material deprivation”11 while others in society have plenty.

Apart from material deprivation, however, the need is to understand two other concepts of injustice in order to grasp the concept of marginality.

First, the provisions of welfare seem to produce new injustices and thus seem to produce new victims. These victims are generally are the ones who are dependent on the welfare system. And because they happen to “depend on bureaucratic institutions for support or services, the old, the poor (who happen to be racially marked groups or women) are subject to patronising, punitive, demeaning, and arbitrary treatment by the policies and people associated with welfare bureau-cracies”.12 Dependency of these sections of classes “gives sufficient warrant to suspend the basic right to privacy, respect and individual choice”.13

Further marginalisation does not just have a distributive angle. Many old people, for example, may have sufficient means to live comfortably but remain marginal in the form of uselessness, boredom and lack of self-respect.

Thus marginalisation involves not just material loss but also deprival of cultural, practical and institutionalised conditions for “exercising capacities in context of recognition and interaction”.14

c) Powerlessness:

Powerlessness certainly means three things: such groups lack the decision-making power, are inhibited in development of one’s capacities, and exposed to disrespectful treatment because of the status one occupies. These injustices have “distributional consequences, but are more fundamentally matters of division of labour”,15 that is, those who plan and those who execute. Women, especially of colour, Blacks, Latinos, American Indians and Chicanos, happen to be in the latter position. They are mostly employed in non-professional courses.16 The powerless status is perhaps best described negatively: the powerless lack the authority, status and sense of self that the professional tends to have.

The life of such powerless groups has been described by Young in the following manner: (i) According to her, “the life of a non-professional in contrast to a professional is powerless in the sense that it lacks orientation towards the progressive development of capacities and avenues for recognition”.17(ii) “Non professionals unlike professionals lack autonomy and in both their working and their consumer client lives often stand under the authority of professionals.”18 (iii) “The norm of respectability in the society are associated specifically with professional culture. Professional dress, speech, tastes, demeanour, all connote respectability.”19 “In daily interchange women and men of colour must prove their respectability.”20 At first they are often not treated by strangers with respectful distance or deference. “Once, the status as, say, a Puerto Rican college teacher or a business executive is revealed, they are then treated more respectfully.”21

Thus to repeat what I have said earlier, power has not just a distributional dimension but also is associated with the issues of division of labour.

d) Cultural Imperialism:

Several feminists, Black liberation and minority rights theorists have brought to focus that the nature of oppression is not just confined to exploitation, marginalisation and power-lessness and violence. A fuller approach to viewing oppression would require considering what Young would call “cultural imperialism”. Cultural imperialism involves “the universa-lisation of a dominant group’s experience and culture, and its establishment as the norm”. These dominant groups have exclusive access to means of interpretation and communication in a society. As a consequence, the dominant cultural products of the society, that is, those most widely disseminated, express the exper-ience, values, goals and achievements of these groups. Often without noticing they do so, the dominant groups project their own experience as representative of humanity as such.

Consequently, the difference of women from men, American Indians or Africans from Europeans, Jews from Christians, homosexuals from heterosexuals, workers from professionals, becomes reconstructed as deviance and inferiority. These groups get marked as the other. These dominant cultural expressions often simply have little place for experience of other groups, at most only mentioning or referring to them in stereotyped or marginalised ways.

e) Misrecognition:

Not only multiculturalism but also contem-porary feminist and race relations discussions are ungirded by the premise that withholding of recognition can be a form of oppression.22 According to Taylor, “hegemon or dominant cultures possess power to bestow or fail to bestow recognition”. The term indicates that people need the approval and respect of others in order to develop self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect. According to Axel Honneth, “the failure to recognise or misrecognition can inflict a grievous wound on another culture, saddling its victims with crippling self-hatred”.23 “An internalised picture of their own inferiority develop amongst these groups”, according to him, “so that even when some of the objective obstacles to their path fall away, they may be incapable of taking advantage of new opportunities”.24 Taylor points out that “the depreciatory image which women in patriarchal societies or Blacks in White societies have been induced to adopt, become the most potent instrument of their own oppression.”25 “The victim misrecognised and marginalised is the other, the voice that is submerged.”26 According to Nancy Fraser, “misrecognition is perpetrated through institutionalised pattern”.27 For example, the link between the androcentric norms that devalue activities is coded as feminine on the one hand and low wages of the female on the other. Likewise heterosexist norms delegitimise homosexuality on the one hand, and deny resources and benefits to gays and lesbians on the other.

The aim therefore is to deinstitutionalise the pattern of cultural value that impedes parity of participation and to replace them with patterns that foster it. What multiculturalists and feminists advocate is “a politics of recognition, a politics which aims to repair internal self-dislocation by contesting the dominant cultures’ demeaning picture of the group”.28 It proposes that “members of misrecognised groups reject such images in favour of new self-representation of their own making, jettisoning internalised negative identities and joining collectively to produce a self-affirming culture of their own, which when publicly asserted will gain the respect and esteem of society at large”.29 According to these theorists, the result, when successful, is recognition.

f) Violence:

Finally, feminists point out that several groups suffer the oppression of systematic violence. Violence is a social practice. “It is a social given that everyone knows that it happens and will happen again.”30 “The oppression of violence consists not only in direct victimisation, but in the daily knowledge shared by all members of oppressed groups that they are liable to violation, solely on account of their group identity.”31 “Members of some groups live with the knowledge that they must fear random, unprovoked attacks on their persons or property, which have no motive but to damage, humiliate, or destroy the person.”32 Iris Young informs that “in American society women, Blacks, Asians, Arabs, gay men, and lesbians live under such threats of violence, and in at least some regions Jews, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, and other Spanish speaking Americans must fear such violence as well”.33 “Any woman, for example, has a reason to fear rape. Regardless of what a Black man has done to escape the oppressions of marginality or powerlessness, he lives knowing he is subject to attack or harass-ment.”34 Thus advocates of politics of difference say that violence is a form of injustice which distributive justice alone is unable to cover.

IV Solution: Radical feminist Helena Cixous, in her article “Castration or Decapitation”,35 aims a blow at phallologocentric culture where it hurts the most and attacks it for marking women as the other, as different, as negativity. She says “no” to the fathers reminding them of the very thing they have most to fear—the threat of castration posed by the female body.36 In contrast to Cixous, Irigaray uses the symbol from morpho-logy of women. Irigaray takes as her point of departure an indictment of psychoanalysis for its almost total disregard of the female subject and therefore she speaks of the relationship of women to women, by opening a space which women speak female and speak to each other without the interference of men.37

Catherine Mackinnon, the legal feminist, believed in consciousness-raising as a method to create knowledge so as to discover collective experiences as victims of marital rape, porno-graphy, sexual harassment etc.

Further in household the need is to recognise the different moral voice of women in contrast to men. Many feminists have argued that women commonly adopt a different moral voice to that privileged in the ethics of justice approach. It is argued that an ethic of justice is a manifestation of the female psyche to be found in a contextual morality or an ethic of care. Affirming differences then beomes an alternative ethics. Carol Gilligan offers feminists a framework within which they might critique individualism and universalism of liberal political institutions. Till the time women’s need for differentiated citizenship is not recognised, issues like marital rape cannot be resolved. Carole Pateman advocates the need for sexually differentiated citizenship.

According to Rosi Braidotti, the primary goal of feminism is thus not to deny differences but to recover the feminine within sexual differences to generate an autonomous female imaginary beyond the existing stereotypes of women.38 According to Druncilla Cornell, feminism is to be defined as affirming feminine without the need for the essentialist description of women. The feminist philosopher hopes to avoid the charge of ethnocentricism arguing that such a framework can include all rather than only some women accommodating complex variables of race, class and culture. Thus marital rape may be experienced by all women but would vary differently across cultures. Hence her conception was framed in an absolutist term—either radical otherness or one remains imprisoned within the iron cage of phallocenticism. Therefore the need would be to understand women in terms of what Deborah King terms—multiple consciousness that is not only sex but class, ethnicity, religion, minority status etc. Thus a poor woman would be doubly disadvantaged in contrast to an employed, literate woman who can have access to several agencies to overcome marital rape. This might not be true of poor women, illiterate in a Third World country like india where even now there is no marital rape law in place. Solution to marital rape is that the culture regarding woman as male’s property needs to be abandoned. The Constitution and religious laws in India need to change drastically. It is necessary to recognise that women safety in the private sphere of family is a must for their mental, emotional and physical well-being. A lot of blame is to be placed on the Indian society at large bringing up young women with the idea of pati (husband) being parameshwar (god). The stigma surrounding accusing a husband of rape is a big challenge. Marriage is supposed to be an institution of mutual love and respect. If such an institution is shaken by marital rape, it’s not based on democracy or equality! It is dismaying to see that the world’s largest democracy can’t ensure equality to half its population. Scriptures treat the husband as god and grants to him the ultimate right over his wife. Globalisation needs to fast alter the letter of the law. A lot of feminist literature needs to be taught in schools and colleges.

While issues of social justice envisaged through such group representation entails democracy, it on other hand raises certain other vital questions for the health of democracy.

V Deliberation, Moral Conflicts and Can Marital Rape39 be Resolved Here and Now?

Thus over centuries on issues like marital rape, pornography, abortion, religious personal laws there has been a fight going on between feminists and patriarchal and religious forces. But one needs to see whether this fight can be overcome and if any solution to these problems, especially marital rape, is possible.

Does a differentiated citizenship entail group hostility and irreconcilable difference with no dialogue across groups? Some might, for example, object that implementing a principle of group representation in governing bodies would exacerbate conflict and divisiveness in public life, rendering decisions even more difficult to reach. According to Young especially, if groups have veto power over policies that fundamentally and uniquely affect members of their group, it seems likely, it might be claimed that decision-making would be stalled. Thus women need veto power over issues like marital rape and this requires representation in Parliament. This objection presupposes that group differences imply essential conflict of interest. According to Iris Young, but this is not so; groups may have differing perspectives on issues, but these are often not incompatible and may in fact enrich everyone’s understanding when they are expressed. Thus men and women at the public and private sphere talk across differences. Women need to educate men as far as the issue of marital rape is concerned and this training needs to begin from childhood. A just society should bring such differences into open for discussion. Insofar as structural relations of privilege and oppression are the source of the conflict, group representation can change those relations by equalising the ability of groups to speak and be heard.

Thus Young’s concept of “heterogeneous public”40 acknowledges difference as irreducible; however communication across those differences is possible. Therefore she advocates communi-cative ethics, which recognises the need for significant interdependence, a commitment to equal respect and agreement on procedural rules of fair discussion and decision-making.41 To Parekh, a dialogically constituted multicultural society is fundamentally committed to culture and morality of dialogue.42 It further believes that common good and collective will, that are vital to any political society, are generated not by transcending culture and thrust of a dialogue. “It has a strong notion of common good consis-ting in respect for basic rights, maintenance of justice, institutional and moral precondition of deliberative democracy and it cherishes not static and ghettoised but interactive and dynamic multiculturalism.”43

As far as contentious issues are concerned, Amy Gutmann advocates deliberative universalism, which recognises that some conflicts over social justice cannot be resolved here and now. These conflicts are best addressed and provisionally resolved by actual deliberation, the give-and-take of arguments that is respectful of reasonable differences.44 For example, on the issue of abortion, deliberation of marital rape provisionally resolves fundamental moral conflicts here and now but not necessarily once and for all.

We can potentially learn more about political morality from listening and responding to reasonable arguments with which we disagree rather than thinking on our own.45 Deliberation thus “calls upon people both to affirm the moral status of their own position and also to acknowledge the moral status of those reasonable positions with which they may disagree.”46 Multiculturalism thus can aid deliberation. Our moral understanding of many-sided issues like legalising abortion is furthered by discussion with people with whom we respectfully disagree especially when these people have cultural identities different from our own.

Therefore dialogue, be it on different experiences, perspectives, cultures, is a necessity for developing a common sense of belonging among citizens.47


1. Cathy Young, ”Woman’s Hating: The Misdirected Passion of Andrea Dworkin”.

2. Michael Moorcock (April 21, 1995), ”Fighting Talk”. New Statesman and Society. Retrieved on July 8, 2009.

3. Brenda Cossman (1997), “Feminist Fashion or Morality in Drag? The Sexual Subtext of the Butler Decision”, Bad Attitude/s on Trial: Pornography, Feminism, and the Butler Decision, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 107.

4. Ibid.

5. Many writers have cogently argued that this Marxist concept of exploitation is too narrow to encompass all forms of domination and oppression. In order to understand exploitation in the contemporary world, we need to take a holistic picture. While workers’ exploitation has been a prominent agenda of the Left movement, a somewhat similar, yet different, problem has gone unnoticed. This is the problem of the real producers or, as Ayn Rand would term them, as “primary producers”. It is important to understand this in countries like India where there is scant Intellectual Property Rights safeguards. So the thinkers’ work points out how such a system creates a reverse discrimination for these primary workers in favour of the second-handers and mediocres. So while the Left movement stands for workers’ rights, a similar stand is not taken for the real producers such as scientists, thinkers, architects, engineers etc. or the primary producers. Ayn Rand in her work, Fountainhead, showed how second-handers and mediocres gained from the work of the primary movers. In the present world with increase in cyber crime, there is need to protect the intellectual property of the real producers, especially in countries like India, where there is no system in place to ensure this.

6. Iris Marion Young, Justice and politics of Diffe rence, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1990, p. 50.

7. I would like to point out here that

Marxist feminism

is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the dismantling of capitalism as a way to liberate women. Marxist feminism states that capitalism, which gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political confusion and ultimately unhealthy social relations between men and women, is the root of women’s oppression in the current social context. While at this point I would like to employ Young’s Marxist feminist critique of patriarchy, I am, however, fully aware that Marxist feminism provides an incomplete interpretation of women’s oppression as it limited itself to working within the Marxist framework. A critique is provided by radical and socialist feminists:

a) Radical Feminists: Patriarchy on the other hand is more compli-cated and needs a more nuanced understanding. The radical feminist movement, for example. Radical feminism, which emerged in the 1970s, also took issue with Marxist feminism. Radical feminist theorists stated that the modern society and its constructs (law, religion, politics, art, etc.) are the product of males and therefore have a patriarchal character. According to those who subscribe to this view, the best solution for women’s oppression would be to treat patriarchy not as a subset of capitalism but as a problem in its own right. Thus eliminating women’s oppression means eliminating male domination in all its forms. Like most feminists, however, radical feminists believe in replacing such domination with a culture and policy of equality.

b) Socialist Feminists: Some contributors to this perspective have critiqued traditional Marxism for failing to find an inherent connection between patriarchy and classism. Marx and Engels were largely silent on gender oppression except to subsume it underneath broader class oppression. Marx felt that when class oppression was overcome, gender oppression would vanish as well. According to socialist feminists, this view of gender oppression as a sub-class of class oppression is naive and much of the work of socialist feminists has gone towards separating the gender phenomena from the class phenomena.

Thus oppression in the present world system is much more complicated than just a pure attribution to class and several other factors play a dominant role in it.

8. Young, ’Justice’, p. 51.

9. Ibid, p. 53.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid. Although dependency produces conditions of injustices, dependency itself need not be oppressive. One cannot, as Iris Young very rightly puts it, imagine a society where some people at some point of time would not need to be dependent on others. Children, sick people, women recovering after child birth, old people who have become frail, depressed or otherwise emotionally needy persons, have the moral right to depend on others for subsistence and support. In fact feminist theory has done considerable work in this regard by questioning the independent and autonomous citizen. Female experience of social relations arising both from women’s typical domestic care responsibilities and from the kinds of paid work that many women do tends to recognise dependence as a basic human condition.

14. Ibid., p. 55.

15. Ibid., p. 58.

16. In the US as in other advanced countries most workplaces are not organised democratically, direct participation in public policy decisions is rare and policy implementation is for the most part hierarchical, imposing rules on bureaucrats and citizens. The powerless in such a circumstances are those who lack authority of any kind. They take all kind of orders but rarely have the right to give them. Powerlessness also designates a position in the division of labour and the concomitant social position that allows persons little opportunity to develop and exercise skills. The powerless have little or no work autonomy, exercise little creativity or no work judgement in their work, have no technical expertise and do nt command respect.

17. Ibid., p. 58.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., p. 57.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.

22.Charles Taylor, ‘Politics of Recognition’ in Multicultura-lism: A Critical Reader, ed., David Goldberg, UK, Blackwell, 1994, p. 81.

23.See Axel Honneth, ‘Integrity and Disrespect—Principles of a Concpt of Morality Based on Theory’, Political Theory, 20;1992.

24. Ibid.

25. Taylor, ‘Politics of Recognition’, p. 75.

26. Ibid.

27. Nancy Fraser, ‘Rethinking Recognition’,’New Left Review, May-June 2000, pp. 107-120.

28. Taylor, ‘Politics of Recognition, p. 81.

29. Ibid.

30. Young, p. 62.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid.

35. Helena Cixous, “Castration or Decapitation”, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 7(1), 1981, pp. 44-55.

36. Helena Cixous, ‘The laugh of medusa’, Signs, no 4, Autmn 1976, pp. 875-93. She says “Let the priests tremble we are going to show them our sexts!! Too bad for them if they fall apart on discovering that women aren’t men or that mother doesn’t have one.” p. 885.

37. Luce irigaray, ‘That Sex which is Not one’, (ed., P. Foss and M. Morris) in Language, Sexuality and Subversion (Dalington, NSW, Feral Public, 1976). Irigaray writes: “Woman ....is in touch with herself by herself and in herself....without the necessity of a mediation and prior to any possible distinction between activity and passivity. Women touches herself all the time, moreover without anyone neing able to forbid her to do so for her sex is made up of two lips which embrace each other continuously.” p. 162.

38. Rita Felski, ‘The Doxa of Difference’, Signs, 1997, vol 23, no. 1, pp. 1-21.

39. Not just marital rape but all issues such as pornography, abortion etc. need to be resolved through deliberation even if not in the present circumstances.

40. Ibid., 184.

41. Young, pp. 116-121.

42. Bhikhu Parekh., Multicultural Citizenship, 1999, Houndmills, Macmillan, p. 340.

43. Ibid.

44. Amy Gutmann, ’The Challenge of Multiculturalism in Political Ethics’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 22; 3 (Summer 1993) 88, 171-204, p. 199.

45. Ibid.

46. Ibid, p. 203.

47. Parekh, Multicultural Citizenship, p. 340.

Dr Tamanna Khosla did her Ph.D from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi on multiculturalism and feminism. She is now working with Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP).

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62