Social Scientist. v 13, no. 149-50 (Oct-Nov 1985) p. 3.


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NINA RAO*

The Woman Question: Perspectives for Today

AT THE END of the U.N. Decade for Women, there is widespread recognition of the unequal distribution of power; but the shift from Mexico to Nairobi is clearly an expression of viewing the Woman Question within the broader framework of class inequality rather than merely gender inequality. This is so because to-day the pre-eminent position of world capitalism and Neo-colonialism is being swept aside by the advances made by the world socialist movement and the National Liberation struggles, which have taken their cue on the genius of women from the lessons of those countries where the victory of socialism has been the victory of the oppressed sex also. In the 60's, European and North American feminists began to look for 'heros' and strategies, anJ naturally turned to the experience of the Bolshevik party. Kollantai's work was reprinted, althouth with a feminist bias,1 and other radical women in the party and their experience was also publicised.2. But in the 80's, the question of sex equality in socialist countries became a divisive issue, both in terms of theory and organisation^. Whilst recognising that socialism has given to women legal equality (without qualifications), with universal participation in paid economic activity, increased their enrolment in post secondary education and professional occupations, besides providing maternity and child care facilities, they have also looked at negative features like concentration of female workers in low paid or non-preferred jobs, discrimination in hiring, pay and promotion, conflict between maternal and work roles, discrepancy in leisure time and activities, and the pre-valance of traditional attitudes of male supremacy. As a result, the North American Feminists, and some European groups have rejected an alignment with socialism as the path to sex equality in western capitalist societies. Although these 'empirical analysts' admit that the statistical base for their rejection is 'patch/, th^ nevertheless reject Marxism and Socialism as practised in Eastern Europe and Soviet Union, more on political grounds than on the basis of any familiarity with the problem, as we shall see later*.

On the other hand, the inequality of women in most 'third world' countries, stems from mass poverty and general backwardness, which is a product of imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and unjust economic relations in the international sphere. To this may be added the effect of war, which has,

* College of Vocational Studies, Delhi University, Delhi



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