Mothers vs Children: Co-opting Child Rights as Gender Backlash
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This paper examines how progressive rights frameworks are instrumentalised as gender backlash tools to suppress feminist activism. I engage with the events following Rehana Fathima’s political act ‘Body and Politics’ which faced strong backlash in the form of censure through law, and discourse capture. Using a conceptual framework I developed, I explore how various backlash concepts – co-option, censure, and discourse capture - discursively interact with each other, and identify factors that facilitate cohesion across backlash actors. I argue that in the Rehana Fathima case, the rights framework facilitated the agendas of powerful actors and not the constituents it was framed to serve. I conclude by making a case for political allyship across movements and among actors who are working on counter backlash strategies; and for deeper engagement of feminist development agendas with the sexuality of women.