Japleen Pasricha: Founder and editor-in-chief of Feminism in India online magazine, India
In a country where rape and discrimination against women are daily evils, activist Japleen Pasricha has made it her mission to ensure women’s voices are heard. She employs digital tools like her Feminism in India online magazine and online campaigns, and raises awareness of cyber harassment.
“We have to fight. Nothing is ever served up to you on a platter!” Japleen is a fighter who has thrown herself into the heart of the fray, standing up against patriarchy and discrimination. She numbers among the most famous feminist activists in her homeland India.
This wasn’t the case just ten years ago though. In 2009, the German studies student was content to walk the streets of Berlin, a happy-go-lucky girl in love with books and travel. A few years and several trips later, she discovered her calling on the streets of her hometown Delhi. As the capital city, and the rest of India, took to the streets in collective anger over the rape and murder of a young paramedic in December 2012, something shifted inside Japleen as well. Still writing her dissertation, her interest in gender, women, sexuality and intersectionality had begun to blossom. “I was a feminist even before I knew the meaning of the word.” Today she “smashes the patriarchy for a living,” as she puts it.
In the aftermath of the Delhi rape case, she devoted herself to the study of gender and feminism, and discovered “that the internet (and public domain) did not have enough material on Indian feminism or feminist content rooted in the country.” She decided to fill the gap.
Japleen is editor-in-chief of Feminism in India (FII), a first-of-its-kind, feminist media start-up that she founded in 2014. Begun as a Facebook page, the website is a trove of feminist writings and uses new media and technology to increase women’s representation on the internet. It gives voice to issues concerning women and other marginalised communities, such as gender minorities and people from the oppressed lower castes. Over 2,500 stories by more than 300 writers have already been published. The site hosts a section that invites women to write, publish and share stories of their personal struggles.
“Speak up. Take care of yourself before others. And always, always speak up.”
FII is more than just an online magazine, and has recently emerged as a resource centre for anything related to feminism and discrimination. It organises campaigns on feminist issues and workshops for journalists on how and how not to write about crimes against women. The Digital Empowerment Foundation honoured FII’s #DigitalHifazat (digital security) campaign on online violence against women with its 2017 Social Media for Empowerment Award. FII has also won the prestigious Laadli Award for Gender Sensitivity twice and has been showcased at several international conferences, such as the Internet Governance Forum in Mexico and the UN Women’s 61st Commission on the Status of Women.
Standing up for feminism in a deeply patriarchal society is not without its challenges. Japleen and her team are often harassed, abused and viciously attacked online by mostly right-wing trolls who accuse them of being “against Indian culture”. But giving up has never been an option.
This article has originally been published as part of the publication “Women in Tech: Inspiration, no fairytales” by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). You can download the publication or order a print edition of the book on the BMZ’s website.