This paper examines how progressive rights frameworks are used as gender backlash tools to suppress feminist activism. The author engages 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 developed by the author, they 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. They 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.
The author concludes 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.