People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 11

March 14, 2010



Rally Vows to Continue Fight for Justice, Rights


On March 8, several national level organisations of women�s, viz the AIDWA, AIDMAM, DWF, NFIW, JWP, JAGORI, CWDS, GOS, AIWC, MWF, SMS, NACDOR, NIRMALA NIKETAN and YWCA, jointly issued the following statement from New Delhi.

EVEN as the drama on 33 per cent reservation for women in parliament proceeded, national women�s organisations met in Delhi to celebrate one hundred years of March 8, International Women�s Day. Marching in a procession from Mandi House, and raising slogans focusing on their demands, the rally culminated in a meeting where speakers highlighted the urgent need to have better representation in decision making bodies in order to advance their struggle for basic rights such as food, work and a life free from violence inside and outside the home.

In the backdrop of developments in parliament, the women adopted a resolution pledging that their struggle for 33 per cent reservation, for better rights and a better quality of life would continue. Many pointed out that this struggle of the mass of women represented their genuine aspirations and not some political leaders who chose to obstruct and thwart social change in order to advance their narrow political interests.

Extending support to their Indian sisters were representatives from China, Venezuela, South Africa and the Arab League who recalled the struggle of women in their own countries. All of them expressed the hope that 33 per cent reservation would facilitate better participation of women and help advance their struggle for better rights.

The organisations gathered expressed support to their sisters across the world in the fight against imperialism, for peace against war and for equality.

Speakers in the meeting included Sudha Sundararaman (All India Democratic Women�s Association), Gargi Chakravarty (National Federation of Indian Women), Mohini Giri (Guild of Service), Jyotsna Chatterjee (Joint Women�s Programme) and representatives from other organisations along with representatives from China, Venezuela, South Africa and the Arab League.

After the meeting women gathered outside Parliament to express their anger at the manner in which a few political leaders were holding up the democratic process and passage of the historic bill. They were forcibly picked up by the police.



The text of the resolution adopted on March 8, the International Women�s Day, follows.

MARCH 8, 2010 marks a century after that first call for an International Women�s Day. On this March 8, we remember the International Conference of Socialist Women held at Copenhagen in 1910 where Clara Zetkin, great pioneer of the socialist women�s movement, proposed that women throughout the world should observe a particular day each year to press for their demands. We remember those 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, who supported Zetkin's resolution that read: �the Socialist women of all countries will hold each year a Women's Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women's suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women's question according to Socialist precepts. The Women's Day must have an international character.� We remember the words of the revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai about its first observance in Germany, �one seething trembling sea of women..... Men stayed home with their children for a change and their wives, the captive housewives, went to meetings.

On this March 8, we remember that many of the issues that dominated the early years of the International Women�s Day movement --- the fight for universal suffrage for women, the fight against war, the fight for social security and care for mother and child, the fight against price rises --- are still part of the movement today. From the demand for suffrage we have moved forward to the demand for representation. For the rest, we need to remember that they remain with us because the system that keeps them alive has still to be brought down. It is for this struggle that the great banner of Women�s Day continues to call for solidarity, assertion of rights, and that driving force of militant struggle. For we cannot forget the latent power of March 8 etched forever in history on that most famous March 8 of 1917, when women in Petrograd went on strike demanding Bread and Peace, a strike that heralded a revolution and an end to the oppressive Tsarist rule in Russia. It is with the memory and striving of that great force that we continue to carry the message of March 8 each year. Not as ritual, not as mere formalistic observance, not as slaves to empty rhetoric, but as a day to press forward for women�s rights.

On this March 8, we reiterate the commitment of the International Women�s Day movement to peace and against war. From India we send our message of international solidarity to women fighting against imperialist aggressions and wars.  If the first years of the International Women�s Day raised the banner of peace against world war imposed by rivalry within imperialist powers, we today raise the banner of peace against the concert of war by imperialist powers and its renewed attempt at neo-colonial domination. On this March 8, as women of India, we demand a universal right to be free of hunger and food deprivation. We demand food security as part of a basic right to life. We demand employment and the right to livelihood. We demand the right to a life free of violence within and outside the home.

In all corners of the country, women are today frightened and angry at the tremendous increase in prices of food. Almost two decades of neo-liberal policies --- of deliberate wrecking of the public distribution system, of arbitrary divisions into BPL and APL depriving millions of the poor from access to cheap foodgrain, of cutbacks in state investment in agriculture, of tardy price protections to farmer producers --- have all resulted in increasing levels of hunger and an erosion of the self-sufficiency in food production. Reducing subsidies to Indian farmers has resulted in the government paying higher prices to multinational companies for imports, and rising prices for common people. This year we have been promised the enactment of a National Food Security Act, although in the Union budget, food subsidy has been reduced by over Rs. 400 crore, and the fertiliser subsidy cut by Rs 3000 crore. The bill that has been proposed by the government confines the entitlement to BPL cardholders, and to 25 kg of rice or wheat a month at Rs 3 a kg. Today an Antyodaya card holder is entitled to 35 kg of wheat at Rs 2 a kg, paying Rs 70 a month. If the Food Security Act is implemented in its present form, they will have to pay more and get 10 kg less of subsidised foodgrain. On this March 8, we demand that the allotment of 35 kg should not be cut to 25 kg in the Food Security Act. We demand that the entitlement of Antyodaya families to receive wheat at Rs 2 a kg be continued. We demand that the benefits of a mandated food security framework be made universal and not confined to those who have a BPL card. At a time when controlling the rise in prices of food has become the most urgent need of the day, we demand withdrawal of the proposed increases in the price of petrol and diesel.

In the 1990s rural women were hardest hit by growing unemployment leading to a drastic fall in their work participation rates. In the first decade of the 21st century, open unemployment rates doubled in rural areas, but increased the most among urban women. Even those officially counted as employed might be employed for just a few days in the year, those forced to accept incomes below subsistence, especially the 96 per cent who are unorganized workers as well as unpaid family workers. While NREGA has offered some relief to rural women in search of work, insufficient financial allocations, delayed payments, unrealistic task targets and financial irregularities have been subverting rural women workers� entitlements. The problem of urban women�s unemployment has remained unaddressed and we demand employment guarantee for women in both rural and urban areas at minimum wages.

The need for a safe environment for women is critical to accessing rights and entitlements. Existing laws such as against Dowry, the Domestic Violence Act, as well as PCPNDT Act to check sex selective abortions need improvement even as those guilty of violations continue to go scot-free. There is a need to address issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment through new legislation as well. Although speedy trials and fast track courts have been promised, problems in definitions of assault continue to be evaded even as government effectively diluted provisions with regard to crimes against women over the last one year. In addition to violence at home, we women�s participation in the democratic process is threatened by the forces perpetuating terror. Attacks on women in conflict situations, including by state agencies continue to be a matter of concern.  Be it in Kashmir or the North East, the armed forces have shown scant respect for the civil rights of the people of these states, least of all the women. Women continue to be made the target of attack in caste and religion based violence, in situations of ethnic and political conflict, as well as state violence. Women are made victims of false notions of �honour�. Further, self-proclaimed proponents of the moral brigade inflict their views and retrogressive notions on all and sundry enjoying immunity from the law even as the social climate gets vitiated by their acts of violence as per fundamentalist prescripts.

We demand that existing provisions with regard to violence and crimes against women be implemented. The definition of crimes be expanded to effectively address the lacunae that exist in the law and that state agencies be made more accountable for violations that occur.

On this the 100th anniversary of March 8, we, the national women�s organisations and groups fighting for equal rights and gender justice, resolve to continue the fight against imperialism, and terrorist violence. We resolve to strengthen the struggle for food security, right to work, and women�s rights to a life without violence. We call on all peace-loving forces to unite against war, and for a just, humane and equal society.