In 1980, thousands of women marched in protest in cities across India after the country’s Supreme Court acquitted two police officers in the rape of a girl named Mathura in a rural police station. The court said that she had not been raped because she did not scream at the time and had not suffered bodily injury.
The case was a catalyst in the birth of the women’s movement in India. Ms. Bhasin, who was working for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, plunged into the movement. (She continued to work for the organization until 2001.) She attended protests, performed street plays and set out to educate citizens about equality and social justice. Rape laws were amended in 1983 in large part because of the campaign by feminist groups.
Ms. Bahsin remained dedicated to the women’s movement even in the face of personal struggles. Her 27-year-old daughter, Kamaljit Bhasin Malik, killed herself in 2006. Her son, Jeet Kamal, was left disabled by a severe reaction to a vaccine as a baby and required round-the-clock care.
In addition to her sister, Ms. Bhasin is survived by her son and two older brothers, Bharat and Brij Bhasin.
In recent years she talked about the sexual abuse she had suffered as a young girl. She wrote a book on the subject for children, “If Only Someone Had Broken the Silence.”
Kamla Bhasin was born on April 24, 1946, in Shaheedanwali, in what is now Pakistan; she was the fourth child of Mangat Ram Bhasin, a doctor who worked for the Indian government, and Sukanya Devi. She spent most of her childhood in villages in Rajasthan, moving wherever her father’s job took the family. Her sister, Ms. Kak, recalled her as a free-spirited tomboy who refused to follow traditional dictates about how girls should behave.