March 8, 2012
International Women's Day
It is often said that “the greatest enemy of a woman is another woman” and there are enough examples to show there is truth in this statement. As we are celebrating 101st International Women’s Year this year, it is but appropriate that I talk about this rather pejorative term of ‘one bitch not tolerating the other one” (pardon me for this). Here, I am not talking about the jealousy factor usually attributed to women which must have prompted this above phrase. It is about how insensitive women can be especially those in power to an issue like rape and other heinous crimes on women and find political alibis for everything that goes awry when in fact they can move mountains if they really desire.
I am referring to our Behenji (Mamata Banerjee) who has demonstrated that she is a politician above all when she termed the recent Park Street rape case of Kolkata as a “concocted story” and try to obfuscate it as a handy work of her political opponents. One expected Mamata Banerjee to show some concern and empathize with the victim rather than dub the entire incident as stage managed. One cannot merely term it as a rare outburst on the part of Mamata Banerjee because just a day before that she had the cheek to term the Falta complaint, in which a 13 year old school girl was allegedly held hostage and raped by 5 men, as a ploy by her opponents to discredit her. She was forced to retract her statement as the police arrested the culprits involved in both these incidents. And if we thought a woman would be more sensitive in responding to the atrocities committed on them, then this response of Mamata Banerjee has proved it all wrong.
Take the example of Uttar Pradesh ruled by another woman chief minister for the last five years Maya Memsahib (Mayawati), who has now been eclipsed the by the ‘son’rise of Mulayam Singh’s SP. In fact during her rule UP accounted for 18.5 per cent of the total cases of abduction of women in India and I think the trend has not changed much whoever is the Chief Minister of this state. Being a woman Chief Minister it was natural to expect some improvement in the condition of women of this state. Alas! It only got worsened.
In fact Uttar Pradesh tops the list of cases of violence against women as per the National Crime Records and is second in the country in cases of rape of women belonging to SC/ST. One had expected the lot of women to show considerable progress under the rule of Mayawati in five years but she was too busy constructing her statues and setting her wardrobe right. It can be only said that improving women’s lot was an 'elephantine' task for Maya. Though Mamata has assumed the gaddi of Chief Ministership just a few months back her contradictory statements and rather nebbish approach to the two rape incidents show that we cannot expect miracles from her either. It is but clear that both Mamata and Maya have been insensitive and even lacked the killer instinct to do something to improve the dreary condition of women in their respective states and show the way for others.
For eons on women are subjected to discriminating, apathy, violence and subjugation and most of than not their tormentors are their own family members with MIL (mother-in-law) and now DIL (daughter-in-law) playing a key role in torturing the other woman and men have been equally willing participants in this sordid saga be it female infanticide, dowry or violence against them. History is also replete with examples to show that it is men like Raj Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Phule, Dayananda Saraswati, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Mahatma Gandhi who fought for their emancipation by making them a part of the political, social and economic struggles when women were busy with their age old beliefs and dogmas.
In our country women have made successful inroads into predominantly male bastions demonstrating that given an opportunity they are second to none (including men). This is something to be proud of and to cheer about, no doubt. Such euphoria or ebullience is short-lived because it showcases only one side of the story, a skewed one. For every woman who has shown she is capable of standing tall side by side with men there are hundreds of women who are confined to their homes, subjugated to violence, sexual abuse and often are deprived of the basic needs of life.
The 2011 census figures reveal a rather gloomy scenario of declining girl child sex ratio in our country. These latest census figures show that number of girls fell to 914 for 1000 boys from the previous 927 and this is said to be the worst child sex ratio since independence. It is even more upsetting and deplorable to note that this skewed sex ratio is noticeable among the better educated and richer households as compared to the poor and the rural populace. It means that education alone is not going to change our narrow-mindedness and chauvinism.
A progressive district like Dakshina Kannada which also boasts of a high literacy rate has witnessed declining child sex ratio in the last few decades, which is a cause of concern. As per the 2001 census the child sex ratio of 952 which declined to 946 in 2011. The causes attributed to this trend range from female foeticide to increasing preference for single child by parents and this single child happens to be a male.
The skewed child sex ratio against girl children is fraught with serious danger to the society as a whole and we the people should assay and come out with tangible solutions to set right the flawed system which is always prejudiced against women.
It means that despite gloating over our economic progress and the rapid strides we have made in IT and ITES sectors, our economic growth is gravid with flaws especially the foundation on which this growth is based. Our clichéd response to empower women has not yielded desired results and it must be noted that financial independence does not mean women are better off and enjoy the benefits of such independence.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty”. While this is required to improve the lot of women in our rural areas, what we need in India is a change of mindset in our attitude towards women’s issues. Needless to say this change of attitude is also required for our women leaders apart from an iron will to do something tangible to deal with atrocities committed on women.