Madhu Purnima Kishwar was Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and Director Indic Studies Project at CSDS till 2016. Since then she has been awarded Maulana Azad National Professorship of the Indian Council for Social Science Research. Her life work represents a rare combination of academic scholarship, research based social and legal activism, including public interest litigation and investigative journalism on issues concerning the most neglected strata of society as well as blasting negative stereotyping of Indian society.
Kishwar’s areas of work include but are not confined to:
Promotes a people-centric study of diverse cultures and faith traditions in the Indic universe.
‘Laws, Liberty and Livelihoods’, aimed at evolving a pro-poor agenda of economic reforms in India;
Strengthening the culture of “Gender Justice” through a culturally sensitive approach to strengthening women’s rights by remaining tuned to the context in which women of diverse communities, regions, castes, and class groups are situated.
Legal aid and PIL on behalf of vulnerable groups.
She is also the founder editor of Manushi – A Journal about Women and Society and Manushi Sangathan, an organization working for democratic reforms that promote greater social justice.
Kishwar has authored a number of books:
Modi Muslims and Media: Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat Manushi Publications (2014),
Zealous Reformers, Deadly Laws: Battling Stereotypes, Sage Publishers (2008).
Deepening Democracy: Challenges of Governance and Globalization in India, Oxford University Press (2005),
Off the Beaten Track: Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian Women, Oxford University Press (1999),
Religion at the Service of Nationalism and Other Essays, Oxford University Press, (1998),
Gandhi and Women, Manushi Publications (1986),
Asifa of Kathua: A Sacrificial Victim of Mission Ghazwa-E-Hind, Bloomsbury 2020
Beyond Copycat Feminism: Women’s Issues from an Indic Perspective. Bloomsbury 2021
Books edited by Kishwar which also contain chapters written by Kishwar include:
In Search of Answers: Indian Women’s Voices from Manushi, with Ruth Vanita Zed Books London, (1984),
Women Bhakta Poets, Lives and Poetry of Women Mystics in India from 6th to 17th Century Manushi Publications, (1987).
The Dilemma and Other Stories by Vijaydan Detha, Manushi Publications, (1997),
In addition, Kishwar has published over 350 articles in various newspapers and academic journals in addition to over 30 chapters in various books.
Kishwar has received several awards for her journalistic writings and activism.
She has also made several documentary films:
- Manas series in Hindi for Doordarshan on the following themes: Dahej Majboori ya Zaroorat (Dowry: compulsion vs. Need) ‘The social and economic dynamics behind the spread of culture of dowry despite stringent legislation’.
Auratein Na Ghar ki Na Ghat Ki (The Disinheritance of Women from Family Property).
Sharaab Kaun Pilaye, Kaun Rukaye (Liquor and State Policy: why anti-liquor movements inevitably turn anti-state?)
Mera Bharat Pareshan (Governmental Controls on Agriculture and the Increasing Rural) Urban Divide being promoted through our Farm Policy.
Udarikaran Kewal Oopar ka Udaar (License Permit Raj: a View from Below) (street vendors and rickshaw pullers in Delhi).
Banayein Ajoobe, Kehlayein Pichhde (The Impoverishment and Marginalization of India’s Traditional Technologists and Artisans).
- Kissse Kanoon Ke: This is a series of 13 programme commissioned by Doordarshan reviewing the actual fallout of various laws that have been enacted for the ostensible purpose of protecting or strengthening women’s rights in post independence India. The legislations covered include the following:
Laws to protect women against domestic violence
Laws against obscenity and indecent portrayal of women.
Equal Remuneration Act.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act
Reservation for women in panchayats and zilla parishads
Law against bigamy.
Bill to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in legislatures.
Laws to curb Sex Determination Tests.
Muslim Women’s Protection Act of 1986.
Laws to curb Prostitution
Sati Prohibition Act.
Inheritance laws for women
Anti dowry laws.
- A Tale of Four Cities—A one-hour documentary film on suicides by street vendors on account of police and municipal harassment.