(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 14, 2010
AIDWA Organises National Convention of Young Women
Senate Hall of the
had taken a decision a few years ago to organise state and district
of young women to listen to their concerns and aspirations. While
It was in the light of these experiences that the decision to hold the national convention was taken and Bengaluru was selected as the venue because of the fact that while it was seen as a modern city promising young women careers and lives of their own choosing it was also home to regressive, Hindutva forces who were determined to impose their own social norms on young women in the city.
The Karnataka state committee and Bengaluru district committee of AIDWA enthusiastically welcomed the decision and worked very hard to make the convention a great success.
March 4, the inaugural session of the convention was introduced by
president, AIDWA who said that this was the beginning of the
observation of the
Centenary Year of International Women’s Day.
The chairman of the reception committee, Dr Basavaraj Kalgudi, a
professor with an extremely progressive outlook who has written
social reform and gender-issues, welcomed all the delegates and said
the country became independent, the language of most women in
The convention was formally inaugurated by well-know film actor, Suhasini Maniratnam, who is recognised for her commitment to social causes especially those connected with the rights of women. After releasing the report on the findings of the AIDWA survey of young women that had been carried out in 13 states, interviewing 2,450 respondents, she made a spirited speech which she began by thanking her mother for allowing her to live since she was the third daughter born to her in a district in Tamilnadu infamous for female foeticide. She spoke about the fears and insecurity that all women, even those who are independent and successful, carry within them and the social conditions responsible for this. Suhasini concluded by saying that while there should be anger against atrocities and injustice, there should also be an effort to help women attain happiness in their lives and, as an illustration of how this could be done, she sang songs in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada that were joyful and enthusing for women!
Subhashini Ali, president AIDWA, then presented a brief summary of the findings of the survey report.
Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary, AIDWA gave the vote of thanks and concluded the inaugural session with a call for young women’s conventions to be organised in all the states.
first session ‘Crimes of Honour’, was an extremely moving and inspiring
one. Shilpa, a young woman from Haryana,
who had married a young man eight months back recounted the horrors
been inflicted by the self-appointed caste panchayat of her husband’s
village. The panchayat issued a fatwa
that since the couple belonged to the same sub-caste, the marriage was
annulled and they would now be brother and sister to each other. Shilpa and her husband refused to accept this
and they were supported by their families.
The panchayat then exiled her in-laws from their village. Her husband in a fit of desperation swallowed
poison in front of the panchayat but was, fortunately, saved. Then villagers from 13 surrounding villages
collected and stoned Shilpa, her husband and his family members and
in the presence of the police. Then the
beleaguered family approached the High Court which ordered the Haryana
to arrest 12 panchayat members if they did not rescind their decisions. The panchayat then changed its decision to
one of exiling Shilpa’s father-in-law to 3 months’ exile and one
each family member. Now Shilpa is forced
to live in
Pradhan, a young woman from Uttar Pradesh who was born and brought up
related her story with incredible dignity and courage.
She said that she belonged to a Brahmin
family but had married a Malyali boy whom she loved.
Eight months after their marriage, when she
was expecting their first child, her brother brutally killed her
father, his younger brother and his friend.
She said that had it not been for AIDWA she would not have been
survive the tragedy, bring her daughter into the world and fight for
justice. She said that the Sessions
Court and High Court in
Jagmati, AIDWA assistant secretary, concluded the session. She placed honour crimes in their social context and said that self-choice marriages must be seen as a very important aspect of the struggle against caste, class and gender oppression. They threaten hierarchies and take forward the struggle for equality and that is why they arouse such violent opposition. But if organisations like AIDWA intervene effectively, this opposition can be made to crumble. She also said that AIDWA was finalising a draft law to deal with all aspects of this crime.
second session was ‘Voices from Different States’.
Saumya, a young tribal woman from Kerala,
spoke about her life of poverty and deprivation and said that it was
the Left Front gave her family a small plot of land that they were able
improve their living standards. She had
been able to study only till the XII but had written many short stories
tribal life that had been published and she was now working on a novel. She said that she wanted to continue her
studies so that she could teach poor children, specially children who
at the hands of alcoholic family members.
A minor Muslim rape victim from Uttar Pradesh sent her statement
to the convention
in which she said that at the age of 12 she, the daughter of a poor,
rag-picker, had been gang-raped by rich and powerful young men, one of
the nephew of a Samajwadi Party MLC.
Since this occurred when the SP was in power, even the Women’s
Commission tried to hush up the case. It
was only when AIDWA intervened that the case was filed.
Now two of the culprits had been arrested and
the case was continuing. AIDWA had
helped her get admission in a boarding-school and she was determined to
and become a lawyer so that she could help others fight for justice. Valentina from Tamilnadu had been the victim
of an acid attack when she was only 14 when a young man who stalked her
trying to force her to marry him was rejected by her.
He threw acid on her and her parents and they
had to be hospitalised for four months.
She had to undergo a series of operations. While
the incident took place in 1996, the
court sentenced the perpetrator to ten years imprisonment only in 2008. The court also directed the state government
to give her a job which has not happened till today.
She said that she is an MSc but when she goes
for a job interview, no one looks at her certificates, they only look
face and reject her. In 2008, Valentina
came in touch with AIDWA and she says that she has become so
after that that she is no longer afraid to go out of her house and also
in public. Padma, a lawyer from Andhra
spoke about her work dealing with cases, especially of domestic
said that governments are not serious about implementing the law. Saraswati Tudu, a tribal elected panchayat
The last speaker was a devadasi from Karnataka, Durgamma. She said that when she was seven, her poor, dalit parents made her a devadasi. When she attained puberty, a married man with children entered into a relationship with her and she decided to make this a permanent relationship and, she said, she was fortunate that he was ‘better than other men and agreed’. She said that other devadasis were not so lucky. After their first relationship, they became the prey of anyone and everyone and led lives of degradation, oppression and poverty. She said that three years ago she came in contact with AIDWA during a campaign against the devadasi practice and she joined the campaign. She said that in these three years, no new devadasi had been consecrated to ‘the gods’ in her area.
Gouramma, AIDWA leader from Karnataka, thanked all the participants and all those who had helped in making the convention a success. Subhashini Ali concluded the programme and called upon the participants and AIDWA leaders and activists to ensure that young women came into the organisation in large numbers. This could only happen if AIDWA lived upto their expectations of campaigning for their rights. By doing this, the organisation itself would be rejuvenated and strengthened.