Feminist Review

, Volume 98, Issue 1, pp 136–152

disowning dependence: single women's collective struggle for independence and land rights in northwestern India

  • Kim Berry
Non Themed Article

DOI: 10.1057/fr.2011.7

Cite this article as:
Berry, K. Fem Rev (2011) 98: 136. doi:10.1057/fr.2011.7


In April 2008 over 2,600 single women marched for three days to Shimla, the state capital of the northwestern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, to demand rights to land, health care and ration cards for single women. The march was organized by a new social movement called Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, comprising divorced, abandoned, never-married women, widows and wives fleeing domestic violence who are demanding rights from the state in their own names (rather than as wives, daughters or mothers); in so doing they are directly challenging the construct of the ‘dependent woman’ naturalized in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial discourses. The most radical of the demands of this new social movement is the struggle for land rights and the creation of new women-centred family formations. Through an analysis of their collective demands, I argue that the normative, dependent woman is mutually constituted not only at the intersections of gender, kinship and heterosexuality, but also spatially, through denial of rights to land. As single women disown their dependence upon husbands/fathers/brothers and demand land rights, they simultaneously re-imagine gendered selves by envisioning new marital families and re-working the division of labour.


single women land rights social movement widows women's movement Indian women 

Copyright information

© Feminist Review 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Berry

There are no affiliations available