(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 07, 2010
100 Years On and the Struggle Continues
EVERY day, we hear about the horrors women endure, we shake our heads, forward e-mails, light candles and send solidarity messages. We feel that these are aberrations because most of us feel that 'women never had it so good'. And why not -- it's a feel-good illusion. We cry and laugh; we work and take care of our children; we watch President Pratibha Patil, Speaker of Lok Sabha Meira Kumar, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and now Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament Sushma Swaraj proudly and sigh with relief, believing we've come so far.
only just in
politics, even look at the world of finance. In
But is it a reality? Or are we basking in a 'women power' moment that doesn't exist – a mirage of equality that we've been duped into believing is the real thing by the media and the ruling classes in the society.
Because despite the indisputable gains over the years, women are still being discriminated against, harassed, raped, trafficked and violated. And though women's movement continues to fight gender injustices, most people seem to think that outside of a few lingering battles, the work of the women's movement is done. It's time to stop fooling ourselves. For all our 'empowered' rhetoric, women in this country aren't doing nearly as well as we'd like to think.
2007, the year for which latest data is available from the National
Records Bureau (NCRB), seven of the 10 fastest rising crimes in
Despite the increasing cases of crime against women, they would appear to be not in the priority list of the investigating agencies. The NCRB data shows that investigation starts within the same year in only one out of 10 sexual harassment cases and only two out of 10 cases of molestation or cruelty by husbands and relatives. Similarly, only 3 out of 10 rapes and dowry deaths are investigated within the same year. With one in every two brought to trial getting convicted, sexual harassment might have the highest conviction rate among the 22 major crime heads tabulated in NCRBs Crime in India 2007, but this may have something to do with the fact that sexual harassment is the least severe of all crimes committed against women with the maximum punishment being simple imprisonment for one year, or a fine, or both. For the other crimes against women, the conviction rates are lower than the 35.8 per cent average conviction rate for all cognizable crimes under IPC.
Everywhere, women still earn less, are more likely to work part time and less likely to hold top jobs.
For several women, still their grandmothers’ maxim, — children, kitchen, religion — holds true. Those whom we find at the top echelons in the country today are almost all from wealthy backgrounds, went to excellent schools in India and abroad. They constitute the miniscule minority in the country and it is for them that life is beautiful.
the majority still it is discrimination, naked and often violent. The
participation rate for females in our country is still 25.7 per cent in
country (Census 2001). The number of women in central government
just 7.53 per cent. A rural female casual labourer earns Rs 20.38 less
their male counterpart and in urban areas the difference is Rs 31.23
This has in fact increased from the earlier calculations done in
This is a far cry from progress; it's an epidemic of gender discrimination. So where's the outrage? The common refrain is that women here have it too good to complain, which is termed by some as 'enlightened sexism'. Between politics and pop culture, women are being taught that everything is fine and dandy – and a lot of us are buying it. We act as if the hatred directed at women is something of an aberration or as that can be dealt with by a stern talking to – as if the misogyny embedded in our culture is an unruly child rather than systematic oppression.
women today fare better than our foremothers. But the benchmarks so
cited, the right to vote, working outside the home, laws that make
violence illegal, laws that guarantee gender justice, don't change the
of women's lives. There are 4 laws relating to protect property rights
women and similarly 15 to protect the rights of working women, 8 to
from abuse in marriage and prevent dowry related harassment ; 14 laws
prevent crimes and assaults on women. Alas, if enacting laws is enough,
do not allow women to take part in large numbers in politics and public
in spite of many studies pointing that doing so is actually beneficial
society. The annual Global Corruption Barometer produced by
International, the nongovernmental group based in
There is so much more work to be done. The truth is, most women don't have the privilege of being able to look at gender justice from a distance; they have no choice but to live it every day. Those of us who are lucky enough not to have to think about gender discrimination, racism, poverty and homophobia on a daily basis, those of us who have the privilege of 'living life', have a responsibility to open our eyes to the misogyny right in front of us. And then to stop it.
Women's day is not a day on the calendar, or even a special day to exchange pleasantries, greetings and gifts or make wishes. It is a day to strengthen our resolve. A resolve to struggle for equality. 100 years have gone, but the struggle continues. Rest, we shall not!