Accepted paper:

Objectification of Women in Development Victimization vs. Empowerment?


Rajakishor Mahana (Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS))

Paper short abstract:

Women in development not only lead to empowerment but also put them under victimization and objectification. Although we achieved in integrating women in economic systems through legal and administrative changes but we have to go further in our endeavour.

Paper long abstract:

In development discourse and practice, women are still seen as vulnerable, weak and in need of protection. Hence, they are often categorized along with other vulnerable group such as children, elderly and disabled. This not only conceals the patriarchal disempowering elements in hegemonic gender relations inherent in laws, institutions, policies and societal values but it perpetuates women's dependent and subordinate status. Consequently, women very often are not only victimized but also objectified - both by others and self. In a space of contested development, subordinate women being raped, stripped in public, burnt alive, for instance, by the dominant persons, groups and state-led armed forces are some of the forms of objectification of women to show power remains in the hands of those who have the right to objectify. Taking insights from Barbara Hooper, I will argue that the physical human body, particularly women's body, as a space is perhaps a critical site for the production and reproduction of power. On the contrary, the subordinate women have learnt to self-objectify their body by being the front-line leaders in strikes and demonstrations; engaging in lewd behaviour and getting naked in public, for example, as mechanisms to protect themselves from assault, arrest, conviction and challenge the dominant forces are seen by some women as forms of empowerment. Building on Foucault's insights, I would show where there is resistance, there is power. Studying these complex and contradictory forms of objectification of women would help to understand the dynamics of victimization/empowerment of women vis-à-vis development.

panel G28
The impact of development projects on the quality of life of women in rural and tribal societies