Conditions of emergence: The formation of men’s rights groups in contemporary India
Drawing on a one-year research project, this article attempts to make a feminist appraisal of the phenomenon of men’s rights groups in contemporary India. This effort is structured in two parts. The expository section of this article addresses the following questions: who are the members of men’s rights groups and what are their social locations? What are their goals? Who are their supporters? What methods of recruitment do they employ? The latter, and longer, part of the article maps the ambient environment in which the issue of men’s rights has been framed in an organised form since the early 1990s. It asks: in what ways are these collective markings of a historically privileged masculine identity related to broader processes of cultural, social and legal change? The article suggests that the demand for men’s rights in India is to be explained by the reconstitution of patriarchy—expressed particularly in altered gender roles within the family—that has been necessitated by the dual pressures of economic change and feminist legal intervention in the previous two decades. The anxious call for men’s rights is indicative of a crisis tendency in the contemporary gender order, which has, at specific moments, undermined the legitimacy of some patriarchal arrangements. The organised form in which this collective male concern has been voiced has been facilitated by the proliferation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Internet technologies in India from the 1990s onwards.