The women’s movement has a chequered history of more than a century in India, beginning with the abolition of sati in 1829 to the enactment of the Vishaka Guidelines in 2013. The struggle for LGBT rights has run in parallel, its apogee being Article 377’s reading down in 2018. But gender continues to be a deeply contested and unjust space. More must be done.
1947: Equality of sexes guaranteed by the Constitution.
1947: Tamil Nadu Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act makes it illegal to dedicate girls to Hindu temples.
1947: Industrial Disputes Act provides equal wages and other facilities like the provision of crèche to women workers.
1952: Nilima Ghose is the first Indian female track athlete to compete at the Summer Olympics.
1953: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit is the first woman president of the United Nations General Assembly.
1954: The Special Marriage Act makes registration mandatory and allows marriages irrespective of religion.
1955-56: Hindu Code bills, aimed to reform Hindu personal law and empower women, passed in piecemeal fashion as four different Acts—Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Hindu Minority & Guardianship Act and Hindu Adoption & Maintenance Act.
1956: Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act meant to check trafficking of women and children.
1959: Arati Gupta (Saha) crosses the English Channel, the first Asian woman to do so.
Also read: India at 75 | Timeline: Labour
1961: Dowry Prohibition Act.
1961: Maternity Benefit Act protects the employment rights of women during pregnancy.
1962: Violet Alva is the first woman Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
1963: Sucheta Kripalani is the first woman Chief Minister.
1966: Indira Gandhi is the first woman Prime Minister.
1971: Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act legalises abortion.
1972: Working Women Hostel Scheme implemented to provide accommodation to working women.
1972: Women take action against alcoholism and domestic violence during the Shahada Peasants’ Movement in Maharashtra.
1973: Chipko Movement, led by women, begins in Uttarakhand with the intent of protecting trees and the environment.
1975: UN declares 1975 as International Women’s Year. For the first time, March 8 celebrated as Women’s Day in India.
1975: Kiran Bedi is the first woman officer in the Indian Police Service.
1976: Ashapurna Devi is the first Indian woman to win the Jnanpith Award.
1976: Equal Remuneration Act states that the employer has to give equal pay to men and women workers.
1977: Meira Paibi or flaming torch movement starts in Manipur to protest drug abuse and crimes against women. Turns into a movement for identity and autonomy when the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is imposed.
1979: Mother Teresa is the first Indian woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
1979: Supreme Court strikes down the rule for IFS officers stipulating that if a woman marries, her services can be terminated.
Also read: India at 75 | Timeline: Art
1984: Indira Gandhi assassinated.
1984: Bachendri Pal is the first Indian woman to scale Mt. Everest.
1984: P.T. Usha is the first Indian woman to reach the Olympic finals in 400m hurdles.
1986: In Upendra Baxi versus State of Uttar Pradesh, Supreme Court rules in favour of rehabilitation programmes and vocational training for inmates of protective homes.
1986: Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act prohibits sensational representation of women, chiefly in the print media.
1987: Neerja Bhanot, who died while saving passengers on the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73, is the first female recipient of Ashok Chakra.
1987: Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act enacted to prevent sati and its glorification.
1990: National Commission for Women Act implemented to monitor laws for women empowerment.
1991: Leila Seth is the first woman Chief Justice of a State High Court.
1992: Bhanwari Devi, a social worker, is gang-raped in Rajasthan for trying to prevent child marriage. The assault will result in legislations against sexual harassment.
1997: Supreme Court issues Vishaka Guidelines that widen the meaning of sexual harassment.
1997: Kalpana Chawla is the first Indian born American woman to fly to space.
1997: Arundhati Roy is the first Indian woman to win the Booker Prize.
1998: Supreme Court rules that maternity benefit is applicable to all casual and daily wage workers.
1998: Deepa Mehta’s film Fire, dealing with the issue of female homosexuality, is released, causing widespread controversy.
1999: First Pride march held in Kolkata.
Also read: India at 75 | Timeline: Science
2000: Irom Chanu Sharmila begins her hunger fast against AFSPA in Manipur.
2000: Karnam Malleswari is the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal at the Sydney Games.
2002: Padma Bandopadhyay is the first woman Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force.
2003: In State and others vs Dr Susheela Sawhney and others, The Jammu and Kashmir High Court rules that the daughter of a permanent resident of J&K will not lose her status as such upon her marriage to a person from outside the State.
2004: Punita Arora is the first woman Lieutenant General.
2004: On July 15, 12 Manipuri women disrobe in front of the Assam Rifles headquarters in Imphal to protest the rape and murder of Manorama Thangjam.
2005: Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
2005: In Rajesh Kumar Gupta versus State of UP, Supreme Court justifies the reservation of 50 per cent seats for female candidates.
2005: Onir’s My Brother... Nikhil, centred on male homosexuality, released.
2006: Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
2007: Pratibha Patil is the first woman President.
2007: National Policy on Farmers priorities the recognition of women’s role in agriculture.
2009: In Naz Foundation versus Govt. of NCT of Delhi, Delhi High Court declares Section 377 unconstitutional for the first time.
2009: Meira Kumar is the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha.
2011: Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana launched to extend support to women farmers.
2012: Saina Nehwal is the first Indian woman to win a medal in badminton at the Olympics.
2012: “Nirbhaya” is gangraped and killed in Delhi, triggering massive protests.
2013: Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act to supersede the Vishaka Guidelines.
2013: In Suresh Kumar Koushal and another versus NAZ Foundation and others, Supreme Court re-criminalises homosexuality.
2014: In National Legal Services Authority versus Union of India, Supreme Court recognises transgender as the third gender with fundamental rights.
2014: Mary Kom is the first Indian female boxer to win a gold medal at the Asian Games.
2015: Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme is launched to spread female literacy.
2015: Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is launched to encourage parents to educate their girl child.
2015: In Charu Khurana versus Union of India, Supreme Court holds that the female petitioner cannot be denied membership of the Cine Costume Make-Up Artists And Hairdressers Association because of her gender.
2016: Irom Sharmila ends her fast of 16 years against the AFSPA.
2016: Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act ensures equal rights for disabled women.
2016: Rohith Vemula dies by suicide and his mother Radhika Vemula starts a campaign for social justice.
2018: Actor Tanushree Dutta accuses Nana Patekar of sexual harassment, triggering off #Metoo movement in India. Former Union minister M.J. Akbar, actor Alok Nath and others accused.
2018: Hima Das is the first Indian athlete to win a medal at World U-20 Athletics Championships.
2018: In Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. v. Union of India thr. Secretary Ministry of Law and Justice, Supreme Court decriminalises homosexuality.
2019: In Young Lawyers Association and Ors. vs. State of Kerala and Ors., Supreme Court allows the entry of women into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.
2020: Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill.
2021: A Delhi court holds journalist Priya Ramani “not guilty” in the criminal defamation case filed against her by M.J. Akbar.