(Adopted By the Central Committee 
 At its December  14-16, 2005 Meeting) 

The importance assigned to the Party’s work among women is determined by 
the Party’s programmatic understanding regarding the people’s democratic 
stage of the Indian revolution and the role of the different classes and social 
groups towards its fruition. Capitalist development in India was undertaken 
without completing the basic tasks of the democratic revolution,  i.e.  the 
eradication of pre-capitalist relations centering on the land question. The 
bourgeoisie struck an alliance with the landlords and as a result refused to 
undertake basic land reforms by which the semi-feudal fetters on the 
productive forces could be eliminated. This compromise with the feudal forces 
determined the nature of the Indian State which has been characterized in the 
Party programme as being a bourgeois-landlord state led by the big 
bourgeoisie with increasing collaboration with foreign capital. The axis of the 
people’s democratic revolution is therefore the agrarian revolution. 
The achievement of this task also requires sweeping measures to reform the 
social system through which remnants of pre-capitalist and feudal society keep 
vast rural areas tied to backwardness hampering the mobilization of forces for 
the agrarian revolution. The party programme has identified two such major 
issues linked to the agrarian revolution. The first is the continuation of the caste 
system that further oppresses and subordinates a vast section of the basic 
classes who belong to the scheduled castes. The second is the subordinate role 
of women and the operation of systemic discrimination.   This  in particular 
doubly oppresses women of the exploited classes who form the majority of the 
female population in India. It is necessary to understand and identify the often 
invisible forms of women’s oppression in the Indian context. 
The global experience is also relevant. Even in the highly advanced capitalist 
countries where  historically capitalism developed after the destruction of 
feudal fetters by bourgeois democratic revolutions under the leadership of the 
bourgeoisie, the status of women remains inferior to that of men. This is 
because the intrinsic nature of capitalism is such that it cannot create the 
material conditions necessary for women’s equality and emancipation. On the 
contrary, it builds and utilizes oppressions that are a legacy of pre-capitalist 
societies for its own benefit. In countries like India, where the bourgeoisie did 
not carry out even such bourgeois democratic revolutions as was witnessed in 

the advanced countries, the position of women is even worse. Since the task of 
carrying forward the democratic revolution in such countries falls on the 
working class, it is only under the leadership of the working class that the basic 
steps for the emancipation of women can be taken. Starting with the people’s 
democratic stage of the revolution, the material basis for this emancipation can 
be created. 
In capitalist society, the working class seeks to change its material conditions 
through class struggle although it knows that its ultimate liberation will come 
only in a communist society. Among the working class are women workers 
who face a double burden, exploitation and oppression on the basis of her class 
and also gender. Struggles for the particular demands of working class women 
and rural women workers are a very specific and important part of class 
struggle. Additionally, the general struggle of women against discrimination, 
subordination and unequal citizenship is an important part of the democratic 
mobilization against the present unjust society.  
Any weakness to grasp the full significance and import of Party work among 
women is to miss an important component of the democratic revolution. 
Increasing Participation of Women 
With the growth of democratic women’s movements and the increase in the 
participation of women in the public sphere in the panchayat system and 
local bodies; in struggles of the peasants, workers, agricultural workers, youth 
and students; in general democratic mobilizations and in their own struggles – 
there is an acute need for the Party to develop a clear perspective on women’s 
oppression and exploitation, both at the general theoretical level and at the 
level of practice in the Indian context. It is equally necessary for the Party as a 
whole to identify the tasks of work among women. These tasks must have as 
their objective the strengthening of women’s struggles against the present 
unjust and unequal order; of bringing more women into the Party; of paying 
special attention to their development as Communists; and of ensuring an 
important place for women within the Party at every level. It is also necessary 
for the Party itself to take up issues related to women’s emancipation. 
Part I 
Marxism And The Women’s Question  
Marxism traces the roots of women’s subordination to the growth of class 
society. In his seminal work, Origin of the Family, Private Property and the 
State’, Engels shows the dialectical links between the development of 
productive forces, control over the means of production and evolving social 
The first division of labour in human history was as Engels described  
"between man and woman for child breeding." The survival of the species was 
of primary importance to early societies. Human beings were exposed to the 
uncontrolled and powerful forces of nature. As life expectancy was low, 

women’s reproductive role was considered crucial for the very survival of the 
human race. Historical evidence of the woman’s central role in the nurturing of 
the family, in food gathering, and at a later stage in the practice of primitive 
agriculture, textile and pottery production, indicates women’s control over the 
means of production at that stage of human development. Women held a place 
of high respect, and indeed were at the centre of early social structures. In such 
‘mother-right’ societies, kinship ties were decided through the mother.  
"History teaches us that the class or social group which plays the 
principal role in social production and performs the main function in 
production must, in course of time, inevitably take control of that 
production. There was a time under the matriarchy when women were 
regarded as the controllers of production. Why was this? Because under 
the kind of production then prevailing, primitive agriculture, women 
played the principal role in production, they performed the main 
functions while men roamed the forest in quest of game."  (Stalin, 
Anarchism or Socialism) 
The Roots of Women’s Subordination 

Human needs and labour developed the frontiers of knowledge leading to a 
higher level of development of productive forces which in the course of time 
enabled the production of a surplus over the needs for survival. In the early 
pre-class stage of society, fixed wealth had consisted almost entirely of  "the 
house, clothing, crude ornaments and the implements for procuring and 
preparing food: boats, weapons and household utensils of the simplest kind" 
(Engels: Origin of Family, Private Property & The State),  and these were 
possessed by both men and women. A transition from this hunting-fishing 
system took place with the domestication of animals and pastoralism, so that 
wealth came to be held increasingly in the form of livestock herds, which 
provided a stable surplus and gave rise to the first class societies. Although 
possession of herds was initially communal, private ownership developed 
early with the tribal and clan chiefs controlling the most wealth in livestock, 
and appropriating the largest surplus, while the ordinary members of the clan 
or tribe possessed little wealth. Certain sections of society gained control over 
most of the means of production or the wealth of society, as private property. 
Society was divided into classes, bringing a fundamental change in social 
The development of classes was marked by two related and important changes. 
First, it was mainly men who gained ownership of the herds as means of 
production, for roaming with the herds over pastures was a male activity as 
opposed to pottery and textile production, which the women undertook. This 
put the men in an economically and socially dominating position over women. 
When slave society developed these slaves  also passed into the hands of the 
men of the newly forming classes of property owners. The patriarch owning 
herds also owned slaves captured in battle and used for tending to livestock. 
With the development of the means of production outside the domestic sphere, 
the service that women performed in the household lost its social character and 

became nothing but a private service. This made for a fundamental change in 
the relations between men and women.  
The second most important aspect was that the development of class society 
had its impact in changing the form of the family.  
With private property there arose the need to establish the right of inheritance. 
To secure his right over property a man had to establish that the child from his 
relationship with a woman was his rightful heir. To do this he had to first 
exercise control over the woman herself. Engels points out that  "This was 
impossible as long as descent according to mother right prevailed. The 
reckoning of descent through the female line and the right of inheritance 
through the mother were overthrown and male lineage and right of 
inheritance from the father instituted."  Thus the structure of the family and 
customary rights underwent a fundamental change. Earlier, it was as Engels 
describes, women themselves who had affected the change from group 
marriage to pairing marriage. With the changes wrought in primitive societies 
through the development of the economic conditions of life, the old forms of 
group marriage were degrading and oppressive for women and they effected 
the transition to pairing marriage. It is with the development of private 
property that a form of marriage, that is monogamy emerged which became 
the instrument to exercise control over the woman. It was not the form itself, 
which  was necessarily oppressive, but the historical circumstances of its 
emergence, which were based on inequality between men and women.  
Engels describes the development thus:  
"Monogamy was a great historical advance but at the same time it 
inaugurated along with slavery and private wealth that epoch lasting till 
today in which every advance is likewise a relative regression, in which 
the well being and development of the one group are attained by the 
misery and repression of the other". 
"The first class  antagonism which appears in history" Engels wrote, 
"coincides with the development of antagonism between man and 
woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression with 
that of the female sex by the male".  
Class Society, The Evolving Family and Patriarchal Cultures 
The subordination of women is a requirement of societies based on private 
property.  Historically, in the different stages of social development the core 
link between societies based on the exploitation of classes, private property and 
women’s subordination mediated through the unequal division of sex-based 
labour which remained constant, although the form of it changed. 
One of the institutions in class society that reflect the unequal relations of men 
and women is that of the family. As Engels wrote  "The overthrow of mother 
right (in deciding the descent of the progeny), was the world historic defeat of the 
female sex.
 The man seized the reins in the house also, the woman was 
enthralled, the slave of man’s lust, a mere instrument for breeding children."

He analysed the power relations within the family thus: "The modern 
individual family is based on the open or disguised enslavement of woman: 
and modern society is the mass composed solely of individual families as its 
molecules."  He went on to emphasise that "The first premise for the 
emancipation of women is the re-introduction of the entire female sex into 
public industry, and this again demands that the quality possessed by the 
individual family of being the economic unit of society be abolished."  
The development of modern industry through the processes of capitalist 
development led to a change in the forms of family under feudalism which had 
been based mainly on the need for provision of agricultural services and 
comprising a much wider concept of family than the typical nuclear family of 
developed capitalism. Capitalism provided a role for women outside the 
domestic sphere in large-scale industry and other employment avenues thereby 
providing the material possibility  of enhancing women’s independence and 
equality within families. But the needs and interests of capital dictate as well as 
circumscribe women’s role in socially productive work. Moreover, the 
continuing aspect of inheritance rights and control over women remain as 
central features and will do so as long as private property remains the base of 
the socio-economic structures — until the introduction of the "entire female sex 
into public industry which again demands that the quality possessed by the 
individual family of being the economic unit of society be abolished…"  
At the same time, even though in all epochs and stages of human development 
following the primitive stages of "mother right" societies, the vast mass of 
people did not own any private property to bequeath as inheritance, the 
ideologies of male-supremacy and women’s subordination became dominant 
ideologies, perpetuated and propagated by the ruling classes for their own 
Thus alongwith the struggle for a change in material conditions, Marxism 
places great emphasis on the sustained struggle against ideas and ideologies 
which propagate women’s subordination and which act as a major barrier to 
the achievement of women’s emancipation 
Capitalism and Women’s Exploitation & Oppression 
In capitalist society although the development of the productive forces has 
created the means to eliminate the unequal division of labour between men 
and women, the intrinsic nature and contradictions of the capitalist system 
itself prevent it from doing so.  
Capitalism by employing women in large-scale industry broke the cycle of 
isolation and dependence they suffered from during feudal times. But at the 
same time, the conditions under which women work supposedly as "free 
workers" remain unequal. 
Capitalism has co-opted and strengthened male supremacist cultures. Such a 
framework permits wage differentiation between working men and women 
and gives capital access to cheap female labour, thus allowing an intensified 

rate of extraction of surplus value from a sizeable section of the labour force 
who are female. Women also add to the reserve army of the unemployed that 
keeps general wage levels down. 
One has only to look at the condition of women in the most developed 
capitalist countries to understand how women’s subordination is a major 
instrument of capitalist profit. In the United States of America, the 
recommendations for equal wages for women made in 1977 by the Equal 
Wages Commission are yet to be accepted. It has been estimated that US 
capitalists are making an additional profit of 200 billion dollars annually by not 
paying women equal wages.  
In India, as in many developing countries, cheap female labour is a perennial 
source of profit for both landlords and capitalists. There is ample evidence of a 
high incidence of unequal wages between men and women and non-payment 
of minimum wages to women that benefits employers, including landlords in 
the rural areas, to the tune of crores of rupees every year.  
Another aspect of the sex-based division of labour in capitalist society is the 
role of women of working class families in the reproduction of labour power 
through unaccounted domestic tasks performed by them. In general even in the 
most advanced capitalist societies women bear a disproportionate share of 
domestic work. Even though this may be perceived as a "private" matter, 
objectively it is a requirement of capitalist society.  As Marx showed, the wage 
earned by the worker is equivalent not to the value he or she produces, but 
only to the sum of the values of commodities required to maintain him or her 
and to reproduce labour power. The amount of time the worker spends in a 
working day to produce the value of his or her means of subsistence was 
defined as necessary labour by Marx and the value produced over and above 
that was called surplus labour. The domestic tasks performed by women is an 
invisible component of necessary labour and helps keep the costs of the means 
of subsistence of the worker down. The processes of globalisation and 
privatisation have only intensified this process. As sex based division of labour 
gets reinvented in new forms and the State retreats from its minimum 
responsibilities in the provision of welfare measures, the privatization of 
essential family and child care services and the increasing costs mean that 
women have to shoulder greater burdens in domestic work and family care.  
The devalued status of the woman in the workplace has a corresponding 
impact on her social status as also within the family. There is a huge increase in 
the incidents of violence against women in the capitalist world. Evidence of the 
increase  in domestic violence  also  shows that the family increasingly has 
become a site of violence against women. The leading country in this respect is 
the United States of America. 
Capitalism and specifically the new forms of loot and plunder of the neo-liberal 
framework has shown clearly that it has intensified inequalities and increased


Women’s Emancipation 
The basic requirements for the emancipation of women can be met only in a 
Socialist society based on the abolition of private property. These include 
firstly, the requirement to bring women on a mass scale into socially 
productive work on equal terms and opportunities with men so as to help them 
become economically self reliant, break their isolation and allow them to 
develop their potential and skills in productive work which alone can help 
them achieve equality. Secondly, to break the cycle of domestic drudgery, 
socialize the entire responsibility of petty housekeeping through the large scale 
establishment of public catering facilities, nurseries, child care centres, public 
laundries and easy access to new technologies to lighten domestic work, which 
is to be shared by men and women equally. As Engels wrote "With the passage 
of the means of production into common property, the individual family ceases 
to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into 
social industry." This will also change the unequal division of labour based on 
sex. Thirdly, to ensure the independent role of women in social and public life. 
To sum up, historically, it was class society  that gave birth to patriarchal 
ideologies and the subordination of women. In contrast to current feminist 
theories, Marxism does not see patriarchy as an autonomous system, 
unconnected to the basic economic organization of a given society. On the 
contrary it is societies based on class exploitation and in particular the current 
phase of capitalism through neo-liberal policies, which have intensified 
women’s subordination in myriad ways and strengthened patriarchal cultures.  
It is only in a socialist society when the means of production are socially owned 
that the material conditions are created for women’s emancipation through the 
introduction of the mass of women into the sphere of socially productive 
labour on an equal footing with men. It is only under socialism that public 
bodies at different levels can provide the essential requirements for child care 
and the socialization of domestic responsibilities which helps to eradicate the 
unequal division of labour as also to ensure women equal participation in 
public life. 
Women In Socialist Societies 
The experiences of women in socialist countries substantiate this reality. The 
collapse of the Soviet Union and East European Socialist countries, the 
deviations and violations of Marxist-Leninist concepts and practices by the 
then leadership which ultimately led to the success of the counter-revolution in 
these countries cannot detract from the reality that women in these countries 
and elsewhere in the Socialist world achieved rights and benefits that are 
unprecedented even in the so-called most developed democracies of the 
capitalist world.  
The chain of women’s subordination was broken by the great and historic 
Bolshevik revolution under the leadership of the working class.  It was the 
fledgling Soviet State under the leadership of Lenin, which, on the morrow of 
its assuming power in November 1917, legislated total equality for women and 

men.  It was the first country in the world to establish equal suffrage for men 
and women aged over 18 years.  Patriarchal family codes were  scrapped in this 
first Socialist State sixty years before the Western feminist movement 
challenged male supremacy within the home.  The first Family Code of the new 
Socialist State, ratified in 1918, and further amended in 1926 constituted the 
most progressive family and gender legislation ever passed.  The rights of 
divorce, alimony, compulsory registration of marriage, equal rights in 
matrimonial property, abolition of the concept of illegitimacy and giving all 
children the right to parental support whether born in wedlock or out of it, 
were guaranteed.  In 1922 the Soviet Land Code was ratified which granted 
gender equality in all commonly held land.  At the same time, as industrial 
development increased, women were given equal opportunity in jobs and were 
encouraged to become equal partners in social production.  The double burden, 
or double shift at work and in the home, was sought to be abolished by 
establishment of a wide network of childcare facilities, laundry rooms, 
communal dining halls etc.  The problems accruing from the sexual division of 
labor were thus sought to be solved by creating the material infrastructure to 
transform individual domestic housekeeping into large scale socialist economy. 
The most stringent punishment was meted to those guilty of sexual 
harassment, and rape. 
The results were dramatic.  Women advanced  as never before.  During the 
Second World War the role of Soviet women partisans in the war against 
fascism, as the major producers in wartime industry and agriculture, and as 
fighters, was unparalleled.  Women fought so hard in the war because they had 
a stake in the new system and because of the spirit of internationalism that was 
the hallmark of the new socialist society. 
Not only in Soviet society, but in all the East European countries which became 
socialist after World War II, women and children were perhaps the greatest 
beneficiaries. In the Soviet Union which was one of the most backward 
countries at the time of the revolution, by the 1980s, 51 per cent of all the work 
force were women and as many as 68 per cent of all doctors were women.  By 
the 1980s and 1990s in most of these countries 75 to 80 per cent of women in the 
working age group were employed compared to just 32 per cent of women in 
West Germany. In the GDR, women’s position could be seen by the fact that 
women comprised 45 percent of all judges, 30 percent of lawyers;  57 percent of  
dentists, and 52 percent of doctors. At the same time, to help working families 
and specifically women, there was a huge network of child care centers and 
education facilities. 85 to 90 per cent of children were availing these facilities.  
Comparative figures in 1987 for the UK show that women made up only  4 
percent of  lawyers, 23 percent of  doctors and  20 percent of  dentists.  In the 
United States women comprised only 8 percent of lawyers, 6 percent of  
dentists, and 17 percent of doctors.   
The gains made by women in socialist societies had a great impact in capitalist 
societies, where women’s movements, like those of other sections of society, 
inspired by the socialist example, sought equal rights. Capitalist states were 
forced to grant many concessions precisely as a result of the existence of the 
socialist alternative and the tremendous strides made by women.   

Today with the advent of capitalism in all former Socialist countries, it is the 
women and children who are the hardest hit.  75 per cent of those unemployed 
in the former GDR are women. The figure for the  the former Soviet Union is 70 
per cent.  The slashing of State expenditure on child care and health has greatly 
increased the burden on women. Women’s participation in decision making 
bodies has come down sharply.  A comparison of figures available for 1987 and 
1990 show that the number of women in Parliament came down in Bulgaria 
from 21 to 9, in the former Soviet Union from 66 to 28 and in the former GDR 
from 32 to 21.   
Within the short span of seven decades of Soviet existence, and even less in 
case of other countries, it has been seen that a socialist society does provide the 
material basis the prerequisites  for the elimination of gender oppression.  
Not even the most bitter critics of the former socialist countries can deny the 
unprecedented advances of women in those societies. 
The rights and benefits of women in China and Cuba are far advanced 
compared to capitalist countries in the matter of right to work, of equal 
opportunities in education including higher education and importantly in the 
provision of networks of social services for family and child care. To give a few 
examples, in Socialist China rural and urban women workers comprise 44.8 per 
cent of the total employed. In urban work units 38.1 per cent are women. By the 
end of 2004 women comprised 43.6 per cent of professionals and technical staff 
employed by State owned enterprises and institutions nationwide. The State 
takes the major responsibility for education, health care and housing. In Cuba,  
in the most adverse of circumstances caused by the US imperialist blockade of 
Cuba for decades, the status of women in Cuba has advanced compared to that 
of women in the Unites States. To take just one example, Cuban women 
comprise more than half of the number of doctors, engineers, teachers 
(including in universities) in that country. The facilities for child care are 
universal and decrease substantially the double burden on women which is a 
hallmark of capitalist societies. 
At the same time, the experience of Socialist countries also points to the 
essential  requirement of the struggle in the realm of ideology and culture 
against patriarchal thinking and practice. The goal of women’s emancipation in 
a Socialist society can be achieved with State intervention through affirmative 
action to strengthen the material basis for women’s independent citizenship 
along with the conscious efforts and sustained struggles to change social 
thinking and root out ideologies which are alien to the goals of socialist 


Part II 
Oppression of Women in Contemporary India  
In contemporary India, women have been the worst victims of capitalist and 
feudal exploitation. The last decade has seen a sharp deterioration in the status 
of women in general, more so amongst women who are  dalits,  adivasis and 
from the minority communities. The declining status of women is reflected in 
official statistics.  
? ? The  all-India average literacy rate for women is only 48 per cent, a 
situation that can only get worse with cuts in education budgets and 
increases in fees. The gender gap in education is 86 females for every 100 
males at the primary level and 68 at the secondary level. The drop-out 
rate for females is much higher than males. Literacy rates for dalit and 
adivasi women are worse.  
? ? More than 80 per cent of women in the reproductive group are anaemic, 
reflecting high levels of mass malnutrition. 
? ? The growth rate of employment in the organized sector for women has 
declined from 8 per cent to 2 per cent in the last decade. 96 per cent of 
working women are in the unorganized sector  with no legal security. 
Dalit and Adivasi women constitute 70 per cent of the rural female work 
force. In most parts of India they are paid one-third less than men’s 
wages which are themselves depressed and below the statutory norms. 
 ?? The devaluation of women is reflected in the declining sex ratio. In the 
0-6 years age group the decline is from 945 to 927 in the last decade 
indicating an alarming increase in sex-selective abortions reflecting son-
preference cultures. Moreover, this is led by   the better off sections of 
society with the sex ratio  in Delhi at a low of 868. Whereas the sex-ratios 
for non-SC-STs populations (0-6 years) are 919, for STs it is 973 and for 
SC’s 938. 
? ? There is an increase in social practices like dowry, which has intensified 
domestic and dowry-related violence against women. It has also led to 
an increase in child marriages, sale of girl children in certain parts of 
India and trafficking in women. Sexual harassment and rape has greatly 
increased. One-third of the registered cases of rape are committed 
against minors. The conviction rate is dismal with over 75 per cent of the 
accused being acquitted. The position of single women, widows and 
deserted women is particularly bad and their problems are not 
addressed by governments. 
? ?  
? ? Women’s  representation in elected bodies is dismal. In Parliament it is 
below 9 per cent and in state assemblies it is even less. Women make up 
only 7.6 per cent of Central Government gazetted officers and even less 
than 10 per cent of the IAS.  There are only 16 women judges out of 526 

in the High Courts and Supreme Court. This is despite the fact that girls 
have topped school leaving examinations in almost every State.  
Increased Exploitation of Women Workers 
Whereas globalisation and neo-liberal policies have increased the exploitation 
of all workers and adversely affected their rights, women workers are the 
worst affected. Acute economic distress is bringing a much larger number of 
women into the workforce at a time when the job market is shrinking as a 
result of Government policies. As the largest employer of women, the 
Government ban on recruitment and the lead Governments are taking in 
contractualising work has hit women badly. Traditional industries in which 
women were employed have faced a crisis resulting in a huge loss of jobs to 
women workers. In the special economic zones where women get employment 
in some industries, employers impose poor working conditions, including less 
than the minimum wage in many cases and with the virtual ban on trade union 
rights in these areas, women workers are further deprived minimum benefits 
of protective legislation. Women are being forced increasingly into contract and 
casual work with its attendant low wages, insecurity of service and dismal 
work conditions including increased vulnerability to sexual harassment. More 
women are being forced into the unorganized sector and in home based work 
at extremely low piece rates. In the rural areas it is poor women agricultural 
workers who bear the heaviest burden of poverty and vulnerability. The 
majority of these rural workers are dalits and tribals. Decreasing work in 
agriculture, lack of opportunities for non-agricultural work, low wages, 
increased vulnerability to food insecurity, increased landlessness, increased 
distress migration are some of the features of the situation as far as rural 
women workers are concerned. Tribal women along with tribal men are 
deprived of their rights to land but women face added problems including 
harassment and brutality at the hands of forest guards because of their 
additional role in collection of minor forest produce, wood for fuel etc. 
Economic independence is a pre-requisite for women’s advancement and in 
this context the growing unemployment among the ranks of the female work 
force has a specific dimension. The policies of globalisation, liberalization and 
privatization have greatly undermined the economic status of women.   
The retreat of the Government from welfare responsibilities and cuts in social 
sector spending have hit women hard and they have to spend longer hours in 
non-productive work. 
Thus the struggle against the new economic policies by the Party and mass 
organizations must also address in a most conscious manner the specific 
dimension of vulnerability and increased exploitation of working women. 
Caste As An Instrument of Women’s Oppression  
Historically, religion has been used to legitimise class inequalities and gender 
oppression of women. Additionally, in India, the caste system accorded legal 
and ritual sanction to an immutable form of hierarchical inequality that had 

both economic and social dimensions. Although it developed as a part of the 
Hindu religion, it has also influenced other religious communities. Caste 
ideology sanctions brutal forms of subordination for all those of the lower 
castes and against untouchables. On women its impact was and continues to be 
particularly oppressive.   
The caste system like the iron bars of a prison not only constitutes the most 
resilient framework against any change in the lower status of women, the caste 
system itself is a most crucial instrument in creating that status. The significant 
and inalienable factor of the caste system is the system of hierarchies it 
establishes between different castes, in which women are considered uniformly 
the lowest in each caste. The so-called "blood purity" conditions intrinsic to the 
hierarchies imposed by upper caste men set out a strict code of conduct for 
women, based on the control of a woman’s sexuality, drastically subordinated 
the status of women within that particular caste and were consciously followed 
by the castes downward throughout society. It is also true that the strength of 
the caste structures that subordinate women are inversely in proportion to the 
distance between that particular caste and the highest link in the hierarchy, 
although for various reasons the more democratic relations within the lower 
castes are also getting eroded.   
The right to choose their own partners circumscribed by caste boundaries, 
results in ‘honour killings’ sanctioned by caste panchayats. In caste conflicts, 
women from the lower castes become the special targets of humiliation and 
violence from the dominant castes. This is a direct assault on the minimum 
human right for self-choice partners. 
Dalit women face the brunt of caste oppression by the upper castes, men and 
women. Dalit women are not only the objects of sexual exploitation by upper 
caste men, but also a source of free or cheap labour for the ruling classes. The 
caste system, as with gender oppression, legitimises free/cheap labour of 
dalits. Dalit women are burdened with three inequalities by virtue of their 
class since most dalit women belong to the exploited classes, caste and gender. 
In the Indian context, women’s emancipation is linked with the uprooting of 
the ideological as well as material basis of caste structures. 
Impact of Communalism And Fundamentalism 
Communal and fundamentalist forces target the rights of women in the name 
of religion and tradition.  The representatives of the Hindutva platform, the 
Sangh Parivar has supported the most retrograde social practices like Sati and 
remains committed to the anti-women understanding of the Manu smriti that 
denies women an independent identity. These forces have gone to the extent of 
trying to impose dress codes on women and shamelessly propagate that 
increased violence against women is because of the way that women dress. 
This highly objectionable approach is not only providing sanction and 
justification for the guilty criminals but also impinges on women’s 
independence. The communal violence unleashed by the Hindutva forces has 
particularly targeted women belonging to the minority communities. Utilizing 
the religious sentiments of large numbers of women, the majority communal 

forces try to mobilize them as a political constituency. There have been 
disturbing trends of women mobilized by the Hindutva forces actively 
participating in communal mobilizations, including against Muslim women. 
This must be actively  countered by our work among women. This must also 
include programmes that help to inculcate a scientific outlook and against 
obscurantist practices. 
At the same time, the fundamentalist forces in the Muslim community refuse to 
reform personal laws and undermine the constitutional rights of Muslim 
women. Muslim women themselves are coming forward to protest against the 
retrograde fatwas of the fundamentalist forces within the community. Pro-
reform sections within the community are also becoming more active. These 
are extremely positive trends which must be noted by the Party and supported 
in appropriate ways.  Special efforts must be made to increase work among 
Muslim women among whom there is increasing ferment. Issues concerning 
minority women including the discrimination faced by them by virtue of their 
religious beliefs in many States particularly those where the Sangh Parivar is 
active or is leading the Government are issues which the Party should address. 
There can be no compromise with the anti-women platforms of the 
fundamentalist forces. The Party has to take the lead in mobilizing public 
opinion against the anti-women platforms of these forces. Communal forces in 
the various communities directly mobilize women by appealing to their 
religious sentiments.  This poses a big threat to democratic struggles and has to 
be countered effectively. 
Multi-faceted And Increasing Violence 
The cultures spawned by globalisation has directly contributed to the growing 
number of sexual attacks on women, child sexual abuse, sex rackets, incidents 
of sexual blackmailing and so on. With all pervading consumer values 
promoted through neo-liberal policies there is an increasing trend in the media 
of commodification of women and there is a proliferation of serials and films 
etc. that portray women in a demeaning and degrading way. Driven by 
poverty, more women are forced into prostitution.  Trafficking in women and 
girl children has greatly increased.  Blind consumerism fuelled by market 
values has also led to the spread of dowry demands. The practice of dowry 
knows no boundaries and like an epidemic has spread throughout the country, 
to all castes, regions and communities including those communities where 
dowry never existed. Shockingly, the practice of dowry itself has virtually got 
social sanction and it is only the violence connected with dowry that is 
considered a crime not the actual practice itself.  This has had a cascading 
impact on the status of women and is one of the main reasons behind the 
shocking increase in female foeticide. At the same time increase in domestic 
violence is taking a heavy toll of women’s lives, their physical and mental 
The pro-women practices among several communities are getting subverted as 
for example in many of the regions in the north-east where there was no dowry 

practice or as in Meghalaya where matriarchal systems existed  the trend is to 
weaken women’s control over property. 
Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Feudal Struggles 
There are new forms of subordination of women which require struggles 
against both capitalist and feudal inequalities. Understanding the various 
issues facing such a large section of the Indian population, it is incumbent on 
the Party to lead movements that deal with these issues linking up these 
struggles to a wider movement for social reform that will mobilize the masses 
against caste and gender oppression. 
Part III 
Party Programme  And Women’s Issues 
Party documents have laid down the basic framework of the Party’s approach. 
The Party Programme in Chapter V clause 5.13 states:  
"With India’s independence, the women of India, equal participants in 
the freedom struggle had hoped for emancipation from the shackles of 
centuries old feudal and gender oppression. But leave alone advance, 
five decades of bourgeois-landlord rule have perpetuated patriarchy in 
every sphere. Women are exploited at different levels, as women,  as 
workers, and as citizens. The process of liberalization has brought in its 
wake newer forms of gender exploitation, in both the economic and 
social spheres, leading to increased violence against women. Economic 
independence and an independent role in social and political life are 
basic conditions for the advance of women. Resistance against this 
unequal status and the women’s movement for equality are part of the 
movement for social emancipation."  
(a) Women as Women  
In defining women’s oppression and exploitation at three different levels, the 
Party Programme lays out the framework for a Marxist understanding of the 
women’s question in the Indian context.  
As women face oppression on account of their gender, all women in India have 
a stake in the struggle against discrimination suffered by them. At this level,  
women across class, caste and community face oppression that take the form of 
sexual exploitation and violence, demands for dowry, domestic violence and 
inequality within the family. The unequal share in resources both within the 
family and society leads to further vulnerability and violence against them.  
This understanding is elaborated in Clause xiv, Chapter VI in the Programme 
of People’s Democracy. It is stated:  
"Removal of social inequalities and discrimination against women, 
equal rights with men in such matters as inheritance of property, 
including land, enforcement  of protective social, economic and family 

laws based on equal rights of women in all communities, admissions to 
professions and services will be ensured. Suitable support systems in 
child care and domestic work will be part of the thrust to democratize 
family structures."  
The last sentence on "democratization of family structures" is premised on the 
reality that the family as it exists today is undemocratic, that relations  between 
members of the family are unequal, and that control is exercised over the 
weaker members of the family like the women and girl children. It also 
specifically addresses the issues of domestic work and childcare. This is a 
critique of the unequal and unfair equations within many families wherein the 
major burden of domestic work and family care is borne by women and often 
by girl children.  
The Party Programme thus addresses the need for reform of inequality in social 
relations including within the family. 
(b) Woman As A Worker  
The second aspect mentioned in the Party Programme, that is the exploitation 
of   woman as a member of an exploited class, encapsulates a number of 
premises. A working class woman is doubly exploited, facing class 
exploitation, as well as other forms of gender oppression. Class exploitation is 
intensified due to her gender, and she is more vulnerable to gender oppression 
because she is poor. There are two aspects to understanding the status of 
women workers which are not separate but linked to each other. The first is 
that unlike non-working class women, a woman worker directly faces class 
exploitation. Women are not a homogenous social group and the specific 
exploitation faced by women who are workers has to be properly understood 
and movements for women’s equality led by communists must give special 
emphasis to the issues concerning women workers, whether rural or urban. 
The second aspect is that in relation to the working class to which she belongs, 
the exploitation a woman worker faces has an added dimension other than 
those faced by the male worker. Thus when working class issues are taken up 
by organisations of the working class led by communists the specific issues that 
a working woman face must form an important part of the struggle.  
(c) Women As Citizens  
The third aspect of oppression concerns the attitude of the State and the 
Government to women’s issues, and the impact of macro-economic, political, 
social and developmental policies on women as independent and equal 
The question of the denial of equal rights to women in decision making 
processes and specifically in elected bodies impacts on their rights as citizens 
and also weakens the democratic processes. The struggle for one-third 
reservation for women in elected bodies would form part of the understanding 
of women’s equal rights as citizens. Similarly the aspect of discrimination in 

access to education, in access to health care etc. would all form part of this 
This aspect would include struggles against communalism, for the rights of 
minority women, against casteist structures etc. 
Other References In The Party Programme:  
There are important references in the Party Programme identifying the struggle 
against gender oppression as an important task. Discussing the agrarian 
question in Chapter III clause 3.15, the Party Programme states: 
 "The agrarian question continues to be the foremost national question 
before the people of India. Its resolution requires revolutionary change, 
including radical and thoroughgoing agrarian reforms that target 
abolition of landlordism, moneylender-merchant exploitation and caste 
and gender oppression in the countryside."  
Para 3.18 of the Party Programme refers to the huge increase in the number of 
agricultural workers under the impact of the penetration of capitalist relations 
into agriculture. Women form the majority of this class in some states. Para 3.20 
notes the wage discrimination against women agricultural workers. In Clause 
5.20 it is stated with reference to cultural development: "Pernicious customs 
and values are perpetuated in the name of tradition and religion which are 
degrading to women and the oppressed castesBourgeois culture retains 
much of the obscurantist and casteist values".  
The Party Programme lays emphasis on the fight against gender oppression. 
Party Policies  
The history of the Party is closely linked with the initiatives taken by the Party 
at different times to fight for the rights of women challenging retrograde 
practices in the name of tradition and culture. It is the founders and leaders of 
the party who both in their theoretical work and in their practice have been the 
champions of women’s rights. It was in the revolutionary Telengana struggle 
led by communists that women were encouraged as equal participants and 
where they won equal rights to land in the liberated areas. In Kerala, it is the 
untiring and sustained work by communists guided by an emancipatory vision 
and aided by the tremendous insights into women’s oppression provided by  
Comrade  EMS Namboodirpad in his many writings on the subject that has 
helped the state emerge as a model in advanced social indicators, recognized as 
such even by the most die-hard anti-communists. The period under CPI(M)-led 
Governments in Kerala saw unprecedented initiatives to increase women’s 
participation in public life through the democratization of panchayats and 
through the processes of peoples planning and encouragement to women’s 
self-help groups. In West Bengal, the Left Front Government led  by the Party is 
the only state government to have distributed over 80,000 pattas in the name of 
single women, and as many as 4 lakh land pattas in the names of both husband 
and wife, establishing the importance of equal rights in land. In the last 
panchayat elections, the number of women candidates who contested and won 

was around 40 per cent, well above the reserved seat limit of 33 per cent. West 
Bengal from the early days of the  Left front Government has played a 
pioneering role in enhancing women’s participation in the panchayat system, 
with special focus on women belonging to the socially oppressed castes as well 
as tribal women. In Tripura, the Party has set a record in women’s participation 
in the panchayat system with 43 per cent women participants at different 
levels. Several initiatives have been taken for tribal and scheduled caste women 
in particular through the formation of cooperatives and self-help groups. 
Establishment of tribal girls hostels, special attention to education and 
development needs of tribal girls and women are some examples. Tribal 
women in Tripura have been in the forefront of the most heroic battles against 
separatist and extremist armed forces led by the Left forces, providing an 
inspiring example to the whole country. In Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura 
the effort by the Party in  government has been to enhance the economic and 
social status of women. The difference between self-help groups in these states 
is that the thrust is on developing women’s skills in production of different 
saleable items, to help develop markets for the products so as to help women 
become self-reliant. The  government unlike in the World Bank model of such 
self-help groups, does not retreat from its responsibilities but plays an active 
role in helping the groups.  
The Party’s unequivocal stand in support of reservation for women has been a 
contrast with the vacillating positions of other parties. The Party has also come 
out strongly against fundamentalism of all hues whether against the anti-
women platforms of the Hindutva brigade or against the fatwas and retrograde 
steps against the rights of Muslim women advocated by Muslim 
fundamentalists including during the Shah Bano case. 
A most important and far reaching intervention in defence of the rights of 
women workers was made in the working class movement under the 
leadership of Comrade B.T.Ranadive when a separate coordination committee 
of working women was formed as part of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions 
(CITU) to highlight and focus on the specific aspects of exploitation and 
oppression that women workers face. This has undoubtedly given an impetus 
to the struggles of working women and the class struggle as a whole 
encouraging a much wider section of women workers to join the struggle. 
The Party has established itself as a supporter of women’s rights. However 
there is scope for improvement in the Party’s understanding of and practice 
concerning women’s issues.  
Ruling Class Interventions Among Women 
It is important to note that with the increase in women’s mobilization and 
movements, parties representing the ruling classes are also directly increasing 
their intervention among women through the formation of women’s wings of 
their parties and also operating through a network of NGOs set up by them. At 
the same time, bourgeois parties are making a specific attempt to mobilize 
women on caste and communal grounds. The Hindutva brigade has also been 
mobilizing women through various women’s organizations in which women 

are imbued with the highly communal bias against minority communities and 
are trained to propagate the Hindutva version of the ideal Hindu family to the 
masses of women. The communal mobilizations of women during the Gujarat 
violence by the Hindutva brigade, showed the extent of their intervention 
among a section of women. 
Caste has also become a tool for women’s mobilization with several caste-based 
women’s organisations being formed by interested parties with sectarian 
agendas. At the same time, several dalit women’s groups have been formed 
which have highlighted specific oppressions faced by dalit women. 
Bourgeois politicians have in some cases successfully won women’s support 
through focused propaganda on women’s issues even though their actual 
policies militate against women’s interests. In several states bourgeois parties 
have taken the lead in trying to mobilize women. 
At the same time, there is a proliferation of NGOs and autonomous women’s 
groups, many of them foreign funded working among women who seek to 
depoliticalise movements of women. There are divisions among feminist 
groups on inclusion of issues concerning class and caste in women’s 
movements. One section has been working with the Left and democratic 
women’s organizations on an issue based approach which has in many cases 
helped to advance women’s rights both in the legal and social sphere.  But a 
section is still committed to exclusively anti-male ideologies which are their 
hallmark along with their opposition to positions of the organised Left. Some 
efforts, though unsuccessful  have also been made to form separate women’s 
trade unions in factories where there are both men and women workers, thus 
dividing the work force to help the employers.  
These latter trends strengthen the status quo of inequality and women’s 
subordination. The Party while stepping up its independent work among 
women will have to take note of this increased intervention of different parties, 
representing different classes, castes and communities. The Party will have to 
guide the various mass organizations in their approach  to the different 
organizations and groups working among women on the basis of the specific 
situation prevailing in the state taking into account the experience of the 
women’s organization in their work among women. 
Party’s Role 
The Party sees the task of mobilizing the mass of women as a strategic task. The 
identification and removal of weaknesses that prevent this mobilization are 
necessary for the fulfillment of the goals of the people’s democratic revolution. 
It is with this spirit that we need to identify the tasks of the Party among 
women. The rectification document of the Party and the political-organisational 
reports adopted by various Party Congresses have mentioned some of the 
wrong trends which need to be eliminated. There are broadly three main areas 

where attention has to be paid to improve our work among women. (1) 
Mobilisation by the Party and other mass organizations on issues concerning 
women (2) More efforts to bring women into the Party and increasing their 
responsibilities,  increasing intervention and mobilization of women in mass 
organisations led by the Party (3) Eradication of wrong trends within the Party 
concerning women’s issues.  
(1) Expanding Party Mobilisation on Women’s Issues 
As mentioned earlier there is a big increase in the participation of women in 
class struggles as well as in mobilizations on democratic issues. It is necessary 
for the Party to give special attention to such participation of women and to see 
how it can be enhanced. Since women face different levels of exploitation and 
oppression it is necessary for the Party to directly take up issues facing women 
on the Party platform. At the same time mass organizations in which Party 
members work must also take up issues of specific concern to women within 
the social group so mobilized as well as on general issues concerning women. 
While urging Communists to understand the importance of working among 
women and taking up the issues that affect them, Lenin wrote: 
"Mobilisation of the female masses, carried out with a clear 
understanding of  principles and on a firm organizational basis, is a vital 
question for the Communist parties and their victories. (Many) do not 
realize that developing and leading such a mass movement is an 
important part of all Party  activity, as much as half of all the Party 
work. They regard agitation and propaganda among women and the 
task of rousing and revolutionizing them as of secondary importance, as 
the job of just the communist women. This is wrong, fundamentally 
wrong..It is equality of women reversed."  
The women’s question is a political question that needs to be addressed by the 
entire Party. 
While taking up issues, the Party at different levels must be able to identify the 
needs and aspirations of different social groups among whom women 
constitute a big section. As enunciated in the earlier section, our work among 
women must be guided by our understanding that the stage of the revolution 
means that a wider section of masses, among them women, have to be 
The Party’s main work is among the basic classes and the Party gives priority 
to organizing the poor exploited sections of our society. It is necessary while 
taking up the class issues of women of these sections the Party and mass 
organizations under its leadership must also identify, and address the issues of 
gender oppression, in other words all the problems arising out of the double 
burden that this section of women face. This will greatly help the Party as well 
as the mass organization concerned to expand its base and appeal among poor 
At the same time, it is necessary to take up issues of social oppression of 
different sections of women. Party leaders have to lead campaigns against the 

social oppression of women, speak on these topics while addressing general 
political gatherings and public meetings and not consider this "non-political" 
or feel that such issues can only be taken up by women. 
One such issue is that of  the increasing prevalence of dowry. The Party in its 
Seventeenth Party Congress and then again in the Eighteenth Party Congress 
had very specifically given a call for struggle against dowry and other forms of 
social oppression of women. This also affects our basic classes and is the cause 
of debt, loss of land etc. However this issue has not got the attention required, 
including in the states where our mass base is strong enough to challenge such 
anti-women practices.  More attention must be given to these issues. These will 
also help to change and expand political agendas and platforms to include 
social issues of concern to vast sections of our people.  
The Multi Dimensional Oppression of Women 
In this context it is also necessary to have a clear understanding of the Party’s 
approach to  certain specific areas of gender oppression. 
In the early days of the formation of an all-India organization of women in 
which many party members and leaders were involved, there was a wrong 
understanding among several comrades including among women comrades. 
This was that struggles on issues like domestic violence or dowry were of 
secondary importance. According to those who held this view, a Left women’s 
organisation must concern itself only with issues directly related to the 
problems of "toiling women". There was a tendency  to underplay the 
oppression of women within the family sphere to dismiss it as a " non-class 
issue" and one that is of concern only to "bourgeois feminists". This 
understanding still persists among certain sections of the Party. It is a view that 
fails to recognise the multi-dimensional oppression of women including of 
women from the basic classes. It does not appreciate the importance of 
struggles against the gamut of socially oppressive and anti-women practices, 
and the need to project alternatives founded in the practice of democracy, 
equality, and the rule of law. It ignores the increasing influence of the cultural 
values of globalised capitalism. It also ignores the reality that issues like dowry 
also impact on poor families. 
There are some in the Party who believe that addressing issues of domestic 
violence within the working class or any other section of the working people is 
"divisive". They are of the view that class unity is disrupted as the male is 
pitted against the female. Such an attitude of surrender to the inequality in the 
domestic sphere is itself discriminatory. Domestic violence or inequality within 
the family wherever it exists, including in families of the poor and working 
people must be addressed.  
Among some comrades, there is an incorrect understanding that issues arising 
out of capitalist created inequalities are not to be taken up by the women’s 
organization which is a multi-class organization. This is feminism upside 
down! Trade unions have the responsibility of organizing all sections of 

workers and leading their struggles. However, there are issues on which multi-
class organizations also campaign such as gender based wage discriminations, 
sexual harassment at workplace etc. The main issue here is coordination 
between the different organizations working among the poor including 
women. The work done by the women’s organisation in the mobilization of 
many sections of working women such as anganwadi women, health workers 
and so on has helped the formation of trade unions. This is as it should be. At 
the same time, the trade union work among these sections has also helped the 
growth of the women’s organisation. Similarly  work done among rural women 
should be properly coordinated to strengthen struggles. 
At the same time, mass organizations other than the women’s organisation, 
who have a large women’s membership must address the gender related issues 
that their members may face. There is a gap in this regard. For example a 
reading of documents of conferences of mass organizations even in some of the 
developed states reveals an absence of any analysis of gender specific issues 
facing the mass of women who are being mobilized by that organization. Class 
and mass organizations must address all the different problems that women 
face, as workers, as citizens and as women. 
(2) Recruitment of Women in The Party and Related Organizational Issues 
The Party’s work among women is performed at different levels and through 
many mass organizations. The increased participation of women in struggles 
under the banner of different mass organizations, as also through Party 
mobilisations, has been noteworthy. An increasing number of women are 
participating in the panchayati raj system, contesting as candidates on the Party 
The 18th Party Congress political-organisational report shows that women 
constitute only 10 per cent of the entire membership. Although  this is an 
improvement from the earlier years there is a tremendous potential to recruit 
more women into the Party.   If we take five major states  West Bengal, Kerala, 
Tripura, Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh   they constitute  more than 90 per 
cent of the total Party membership.  If we see the proportion of women Party 
members in these five states that will give a fair indication of the position of 
women Party members in the total membership.  The figures are as follows:  
Kerala 10.11 (7.77 in 2001), Tripura 20.11 (17.6 in 2001),  West Bengal 9.37 (7.72 
in 2001), Andhra Pradesh 10.17 (7.5 in 2001), Tamilnadu  11.02 (9. 8 in 2001).  
The position is better in states like  Maharashtra 12.9, Assam 13.49, Gujarat 
14.12, Karnataka 16.18, Madhya Pradesh 11.38 and Delhi 18.3.  Uttar Pradesh, 
Bihar, Punjab  and Jharkhand have poor representation of women membership.  
Tripura provides the best example with women constituting 20.11 per cent of 
the total membership.  
Some Party State Committees have taken a decision  to improve branch wise 
recruitment of women members. The West Bengal State Committee in its Party 
Letter No. 4 enjoined each branch to recruit at least two women.  If 
implemented properly this will lead to a substantial increase in women’s 
membership. In Kerala also a directive was given to all branches to recruit at 

least two women in the branch. However, the decision has not yet been fully 
Branches have to be made aware of the importance of this task. To strengthen 
the recruitment of women in the Party, help can be taken from the women’s 
fraction committees at different levels to identify women activists who can join 
the Party. Their names can be recommended to the relevant Party unit. 
It is also to be noted that the main recruitment of women in the Party comes 
from the ranks of women working in the women’s mass organization. Even 
though other mass organizations like the peasant and youth organization have 
a larger women’s membership than the total membership in the women’s 
organisation in many of the politically advanced States, the recruitment of 
women through these mass organizations into the Party is much less than the 
potential. The kisan organisation which has the highest membership of women 
and the youth organization can certainly improve their record in this respect. 
The trade unions are marginally better. In the agricultural workers organisation 
also recruitment of women into the Party can be much improved. 
This weakness shows up a related problem that exists in most mass 
organizations, namely, the utter failure to develop women as leaders. The 
promotion of women at different levels in the mass organizations through 
timely interventions by the Party committees working in these organizations is 
essential if the recruitment of women in the Party is to increase. The inclusion 
of adequate numbers of women in all the committees of mass organizations 
such as peasants, agricultural workers, trade unions, students, youth and so on 
is essential.  
The Fraction Committees working in mass organisations where there is a high 
percentage of women in the total membership should take as an important 
organisational task the development of women cadre in the mass organization 
and their entry into the Party.  
Political Education 
An essential task before the party and mass organisation is the political 
education of women cadre. Attention must be given to arrange special classes 
for women at different levels starting from the basic level of women activists in 
the mass and class organisation, women members of panchayats etc. Often 
because of their daily family responsibilities, women sympathetic to the goals 
of the Party and active in some of the organizations led by the Party are unable 
to develop their own potential as political workers and leaders and are unable 
to devote sufficient time for self-study. Given the need to deploy more women 
cadre in different fronts, political education of women activists is a very 
important aspect. At the same time, large numbers of women activists of the 
poorer sections are unable to read or write. The Party and mass organizations 
particularly the women’s organisation must make special efforts to help them 


Branch Functioning 
In some states, separate women’s branches have been formed.  This became 
necessary because often branch meetings are called in the late evening when it 
is difficult for women members to attend.  This affects both her own 
development and that of the branch.  The experience of separate women’s 
branches is a mixed one.  Its advantage is that the timings and place of the 
meetings can be more easily adjusted to suit the convenience of the women 
members.  However, the disadvantages are that the integration of the work of 
the women comrades with the general Party work is hampered. This problem 
concerns only area based branches  as women  Party members organized in 
trade union and factory based branches or in teachers and student based 
branches do not face these problems.  
However if the higher Party committee pays special attention and makes a 
conscious effort to integrate these women’s branches into the general Party 
work in the area, the problems mentioned above can be overcome. 
Alternatively, some way should be found to adjust branch timings to ensure 
women’s attendance. 
Policies for Women Whole-timers  
There is, unfortunately, no specific policy to encourage women whole-timers 
even in the states where the Party is strong. In situations where the husband 
and wife are equally committed to the Party both should be encouraged to 
become wholetimers. In case of financial restraints for the Party, it is often the 
case that it is the male comrade who is chosen as the whole-timer while the 
woman comrade is expected to find a job to support the family although they 
may be equally qualified in terms of Party’s assessment of their work.  Any 
discrimination should be avoided. Special attention should be given to the 
development of women in the youth and student front who should be 
encouraged to become wholetimers of the Party and take responsibilities in 
different mass organizations. In Kerala, the decision that there should one 
woman wholetimer under each area committee is being implemented.   
At present the number of women whole-time cadre in the country working in 
the women’s mass organisation is around 500, of which approximately two-
thirds are given allowances by the Party. The numbers in the trade union need 
to be increased while those in the other organizations are negligible. This is 
extremely inadequate and reflects indifference to encouraging women to 
becoming wholetimers. Separate criteria for recognition of women as 
wholetimers should be worked out in the states as many women who are not 
employed anywhere work fulltime for the Party but are not recognized as 
The Party must make every effort to increase the number of women whole-
timers and to give them the requisite responsibilities in political and 
organizational work.  

Inclusion in Party Committees 
There has been some improvement in inclusion of women into different 
committees but this is insufficient. 
There are very few women secretaries of branches or committees. At present 
the number of women in district and state committee secretariats is woefully 
low. There are few women in the State Secretariats of the Party for the whole 
country. It is necessary for Party committees to ensure that an adequate 
number of women are included in the official panels of  the Party at different 
Women comrades should be encouraged to take additional political and 
organizational responsibilities directly for the Party and not only for the mass 
organization in which she may be working. They should also be projected as 
Party leaders in mass struggles and given opportunities to address Party public 
meetings. Women should also be given responsibility in taking Party classes. 
Recently, West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu have given 
women cadre such responsibilities. This should be done in other states also.  
The Party should also make special efforts to nominate women as candidates in 
elections at different levels.  
Relations Between The Party And the Women’s Mass Organization  
One of the most important task in the work of the women’s mass organisation 
is how to take forward the process of politicalisation  of the women being 
drawn to the movements through their own demands and to develop a 
democratic consciousness. The Party has an important role to play in fulfilling 
this task through proper guidance to women Party members working in the 
women’s movement.  
Since at present the large majority of women cadre in the Party are working in 
the women’s  mass organization and also since the large majority of women 
recruits in the Party have come through the work in the women’s mass 
organization, the correct relations of the Party with the women’s mass 
organisation is crucial to the advance of both the democratic women’s 
movements on the one hand and the development of women communists on 
the other.  
The difference between the women’s organizations and others is that unlike 
other organizations that are of a mixed character in which many male Party 
leaders have important positions, in the women’s organizations they cannot 
play a direct role. Thus, the method for the guiding role of the Party for Party 
members working within the organization must be absolutely clear if the basic 
principles laid down in various Party documents and resolutions on the issue 
are to be implemented. The Central Committee resolution of October 2004 on 
Approach to Mass Organizations states: "The Party provides guidance to the 

mass organizations not by dictates to the mass organization but by working 
through its Party members and fractions to influence the mass organization 
There is a need to regularize and strengthen the functioning of women’s 
fraction committees at different levels. In some states, these committees are yet 
to be formed. Whereas there has been substantial improvement at the central 
level with the Party’s guiding role and intervention scrupulously done through 
the Party Fraction Committee, through regular meetings and consultations the 
same cannot be said for the state and district levels. 
The CC resolution reiterated the most important guidelines of the 1981 
document on Mass organizations  "The work of the Party should not be 
identified with the work of the mass organization among the masses, otherwise 
the links with the masses will be broken. This is an absolute law of guidance of 
the mass organizations."  Elaborating  further, the resolution stated.. "Guiding 
role does not mean dictation, domination, vamping the executive, but carrying 
conviction with non-party members who may differ with the Party."  
Starting from the decision of the period of membership for the mass 
organization to its activities and programmes, every effort must be made by the 
Party to encourage the independent and democratic functioning of the mass 
organisation. There have been instances when even if a mass organization is to 
continue its membership drive throughout the year, the Party Committee has 
overruled it.  It is true that where different mass organizations plan their 
membership some coordination and planning is required but it cannot be an 
iron-clad rule. At the local level it is not unusual even today for local Party 
leaders to attend the women’s organization meetings. Even now, including in 
some of the stronger states, it is customary for Party leaders to attend the 
public functions of the women’s organization. Certainly where the Party leader 
has played a prominent role in taking up the specific issue of concern to 
women he may speak at such meetings whether in his capacity as an elected 
member or as a leader of a mass organisation that has taken up the issue or 
even in some cases directly on behalf of the Party. However it should not 
become a common practice as it is now that by virtue of his position in the 
Party he inaugurates the conference of the mass organization or speaks at its 
public functions.  
Another issue is that of deployment of women cadre. There are two trends in 
this respect. In some states there is hesitation to deploy women in class fronts 
on the understanding that women are best suited to work in the women’s 
organisation. On the other hand, there is also a trend that ignores the needs and 
requirements of cadre in the women’s organisation on the plea that it is not a 
"priority organisation" and deploys women cadre working in that organisation 
to other fronts without adequate discussion with the mass front concerned. 
Both trends are wrong. It is necessary to deploy women cadre in class fronts. 
The Party will also have to deploy cadre in the women’s front. In this context, 
the Party needs to make proper assessments of women cadre after 
consultations with the leaders of the mass organisations concerned. 

With the work among women increasing, it is necessary to have a better 
coordination between the different organizations working on issues concerning 
women. For example, on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace the 
coordination between the relevant committees of the women’s organisation 
and the trade union women’s committees should be strengthened. Similarly if 
there are organizations working among rural women, the coordination 
between the organizations where Party members work on specific issues 
should be improved. This will help to advance the movement. 
In this connection the CC Resolution  On Approach to Mass Organizations 
"To ensure coordination between mass organizations on common issues, 
the Party can play a role by taking up such matters with concerned Party 
functionaries and committees connected with different mass 
organizations. Relations between mass organizations and question of 
allocation of cadres should also be discussed in the Party committees so 
that the all-round development of mass organizations is undertaken." 
Different mass organizations including the Kisan Sabha and the Agricultural 
Workers Union should after discussions within their own committees at the 
appropriate level, form sub-committees of women that should meet regularly 
to discuss various aspects and issues facing women of that particular section. 
Party can also help coordination between the different sub-committees. This 
will help increase women’s participation in different struggles and 
Building Confidence Among Women Cadre 
The feudal outlook that permeates sections of the Party is not limited only to 
our male comrades. Women comrades have to consciously fight against the 
trend of dependence and under-confidence. Even as the Party has to 
consciously  avoid a direct intervention in the affairs of the mass organization 
and function through the relevant  Party committees, the women comrades 
have to be more self-reliant.  
Another trend that has to be fought is that of a form of "frontism" that 
expresses  itself in wanting to exclusively work only for the mass organization 
and not paying sufficient attention to Party building or in fulfilling Party tasks. 
This will be harmful for the movement itself and must be consciously 
overcome. Whereas the entire Party has to take up the challenge of increasing 
recruitment of women into the Party, women communists working at different 
levels have a special responsibility in this regard. They must make increased 
efforts to bring more women into the Party. Members of  the  women’s 
organization should be encouraged to participate in other class and mass 
organizations to play their due role in furthering the class struggle and broad 
based emancipatory struggles. 


  1. Rectification Within Party 
    Communists have to set an example by their own attitudes and behaviour. 
    Writing about the need for reform within the Bolshevik party Lenin wrote: 
    "What is at the bottom of the incorrect attitude (of some sections within the 
    Party)? In the final analysis, it is an underestimation of women and their 
    accomplishments. That’s just what it is!"  
    As the Rectification Document of the Party has noted,  
    "some Party members succumb to social and religious practices alien 
    to Communist standards with the family and the community on 
    questions such as dowry taking, inter-caste marriages, child marriage, 
    equal status to girl child etc. The tendency is to go along with family or 
    community pressures rather than have a firm and principled stand 
    behoving a Communist."  
    While taking into account the level of social consciousness in the society we 
    live and work in, it is important for Communists not to compromise with 
    trends of social conservatism that hamper women’s increased participation in 
    public life on an equal footing with men. Communist families should 
    discourage conformity to stereotypical roles expected of women, particularly 
    newly wed women, of head  covering, taking to the purda, of shouldering the 
    main burdens of domestic responsibility etc or of discrimination between sons 
    and daughters. Party members should set an example within their own homes 
    also. There should be a conscious effort to set standards of communist morality 
    and ethics in relations within families.  
    Party members and especially leaders should encourage women family 
    members to be politically active in whatever way is best suited to them. It 
    should not be the case, as sometimes happens that Party members discourage 
    their wives from joining political work on the plea that "at least one of us 
    should stay at home." 
    Communists have to uphold democratic practices like registration of marriage 
    within their own families, equal treatment to daughters and sons within the 
    family, eschewing of rituals and religious ceremonies many of which have an 
    anti-woman and casteist bias. There have been many examples of two active 
    comrades in the Party deciding to get married of their own choice. In some 
    cases the marriage then becomes a barrier for the woman’s advance because 
    once married she is expected to play the role of a housewife  giving up her 
    political life. By not intervening, the Party actually loses a talented and 
    committed cadre apart from the negative impact on the woman herself.   
    The Party has to make conscious efforts to root out alien patriarchal notions 
    about women and women’s role within the family and in public life. Setting 
    examples in personal life also will be of immense help in fulfilling the political 
    task of mobilizing larger sections  of women. 


The Party Programme states that for the complete and thorough going 
fulfillment of the basic tasks of the Indian revolution, in the present stage it is 
essential to replace the present bourgeois-landlord State headed by the big 
bourgeoisie by a State of People’s Democracy led by the working class. The 
nature of our revolution in the present stage is essentially anti-feudal, anti-
imperialist, anti-monopoly and democratic. This stage of Indian revolution 
requires the mobilization and participation of all those sections that are 
oppressed and exploited. Amongst them stand a majority of the female 
population as workers, as women and as citizens. Throughout the course of 
history, in every movement where the masses have moved to eliminate and 
destroy the systems that oppress them, women have been equal participants of 
the revolutionary movement for change. As Lenin has said: "No movement of 
the oppressed can succeed unless it has in its ranks the vast mass of oppressed 
women"; and again: "The proletariat cannot achieve complete liberty until it 
has won complete liberty for women."  
It is the duty of all Communists in India, men and women, to unitedly resist 
the multifaceted attacks on women’s rights, to help the struggle for women’s 
emancipation and to draw in and develop the advanced sections amongst them 
into the Party with equal status and responsibilities.  
   1.  The Party and mass organizations under its leadership must be able to 
integrate within its understanding and programmes the various issues 
concerned with the multi-dimensional oppression that women face. On 
important issues like the demand for the women’s reservation bill and 
other required legal reform, against spread of dowry practices, the 
increasing incidence of female foeticide etc.  Party should hold 
programmes and organize campaigns. At the same time, the Party can 
take initiatives to form broad platforms on these issues.  
2.   The increasing spread of obscurantism, superstitious practices which 
specially affect women and act as a barrier in the fight against women’s 
subordination must be countered through a broader and united 
mobilization for the spread of scientific understanding. 
3.   The Party must give special attention to the struggle against the 
penetration of communal ideologies and the misuse of religious 
sentiments of women. Different methods of struggle and interventions 
should be evolved.  
4.   There must be a target set for recruitment of women into the Party 
which should be closely monitored. Political education for women 
cadres has to be stepped up. There must be a conscious policy for 
promotion of women into committees and   posts at all levels of the 
5.  Party fractions should strive to set up sub-committees of women in the 
mass organisations after discussion within their own organisation. The 
Party should help coordination between class and mass organizations to 

strengthen intervention on issues concerning women. Promotion of 
women at different levels of the mass organizations should be ensured 
6.   Party syllabus to include Marxist approach to women’s question and 
related issues should be prepared. 
7.  Implement  the guidelines of the rectification document regarding the 
eradication of discriminatory approaches towards women   within the 
8.  Women in various fronts should be encouraged to be members of the 
women’s  organization as this will help take forward the united struggle 
against the different aspects  of women’s oppression.