A Gender Literature Fest Is Is a Good Idea, If It's Not Politicised

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), January 20, 2017 | Go to article overview

A Gender Literature Fest Is Is a Good Idea, If It's Not Politicised


India, Jan. 19 -- As the star-studded Jaipur Literary Festival gets underway, it is heartening to hear that the Nitish Kumar government is planning a gender literature festival in Patna, where writers from across the world will be invited to discuss women-centric issues from April 7. Much of the agenda for the festival is unexceptional. It aims to discuss gender equity, discrimination and challenges for women as well as issues related to the transgender and LGBTQ community.

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Where the agenda of the festival goes awry is in the aim of the state government to consolidate the women constituency. This could be partly because it is being organised by the gender resource centre under the women development corporation of the Bihar social welfare department. But, this means it runs the risk of being a showcase for the government's achievements in the field of women's empowerment, like 50% reservation for women in panchayats and local bodies, 35% reservation for women in government jobs, school uniforms, bicycles, scholarship schemes, targeting creation of one million self-help groups, imposing prohibition of liquor, and so on. This will make it a drab political bragfest rather than a showcase of the vast body of women's literature in India by both men and women.

This festival should be used to open up conversations about the kind of pressures that women writers face in India for a start. The festival should also be a platform for aspiring women writers to get mentorship from more established ones and gain some visibility. …

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