March 8, 2011
Come March 8 and men of all hues, including dads, husbands, lovers and sons will begin hunting for gifts to be lavished on the women in their lives. Though the gift-hunting and gift-receiving trend is prevalent mostly in the west, Indian metros are fast catching up with the world trend, as the Indian male wants to demonstrate he is not lagging behind his western counterparts.
This year the celebration will have more glitz and gloss because it marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD). A hundred years ago, amidst efforts of millions of women, especially those in the west, who fought for the right to work, vote, hold public office, put an end to discrimination and who fought for equality, the custom of IWD began. The lucky women (if you can call them so for receiving it only once in a year) are sure to be the recipients of some of the most original and pricey gifts including the latest technology items or an overpriced bunch of red roses on this day.
Lots of events, conferences, seminars and symposiums will be held throughout the world and in our own country, extolling the achievements of women so that their success can inspire others. Print and electronic media in India will go gaga over the virtues of womanhood and there would be seamless debates on the achievements of our women who have achieved success by making inroads in every walk of life side by side with men, sometimes even outwitting them. All those women who have carved out a place in politics, business, science, academics, sports and glamour, both past and present, are sure to find a mention in print or in television media.
After a day’s blitzkrieg everything will be forgotten until another March 8 comes around and the same platitudes and promises will be repeated once again albeit with changes to suit the passage of time. In between a majority of the women will be back to the same old chores of trying to balance their multi-tasking even as the eagle-eyed electronic media will look for another steamy issue to keep their audience hooked on to their channels.
No doubt the status of women in India, especially that of the urban women has changed for the better in the last 100 years. Despite this, some of the noisome incidents in the recent past that have occurred in our capital city New Delhi and from our most liberal Mumbai city, are a cause for concern. These cities despite all the effulgent aura around them, are not considered safe anymore for women of all ages. Delhi has become synonymous with rape. Single women travelers do not feel safe to travel alone or stay alone even in plush hotels.
While this is true about India, it is also true about most advanced and developed countries also, including America where rapes and harassment are common. Despite all said and done, America could not elect a woman as its president, though Hillary Clinton came close to break that hegemony but did not quite succeed under the Obama deluge. Or was it because the American male felt the country is still not ready to hand it over in the hands of a female?
The recent attack on a senior US television correspondent Lara Logan during the final night of the 18-day long revolt in Egypt, aptly portrays the ugly side of harassment women are faced with. Our neighbouring giant China is giving a tough competition to India in every field including the barbaric and uncivilized act of female infanticide. The one-child policy of the government has forced many couple to resort to female infanticide, resulting in skewing the male-female ratio to the disadvantage of women. The real repercussions of this altered ratio will be felt in the years to come.
No doubt celebrating IWD in our country with the seriousness it deserves, is a welcome development, if it is really going to make a marked difference to the battered lives of thousands of women in this country. Sadly, for majority of Indian women, who are caught in the everyday chores of carrying on life on a daily basis, International Women’s Day will be like any other day. Many of them may not be aware, and even if they are, they may not importune the male species asking them to celebrate the day. Imagine what difference it would make to daily wage labourers, or women who keep toiling in the farms to meet both ends meet!
Of course, our country, which is known for its paradoxes, has seenwomen occupy the highest position of the Prime Minister, the President, chief ministers of states, governors and as members of parliament and legislative assemblies. There are many women who run business empires or hold important positions in the corporate sector or in IT industry. They have stormed the so-called male bastions by opting to work as pilots, mechanics, bus conductors, auto and bus drivers, in petrol bunks and even in hotels. If this is the yardstick to measure the achievements or the status of women in our country and show that women have come a long way, then there is something basically wrong in our approach to the whole issue.
For every such woman who has climbed the ladder of success there are a thousand others who are languishing in poverty, who bear the brunt of male chauvinism and male’s physical superiority, face sexual harassment and physical violence and all other forms of brutality and naked cruelty. We cannot take pride showing only the brighter side of our women achievers when the likes of SPS Rathore, responsible for the suicide of teenager Ruchika goes without punishment for his crime. Or those responsible for a spate of honour killings in the northern states of India and even in our own Karnataka, where recently a young women and her son were brutally murdered (believed to be a honour killing), escape from the clutches of law.
Until we can say we get justice for thousands of Jessica Lals or Aarushis we cannot take credit to say the status of our women has improved. And what about the much-touted political participation of our women, which is negligible? Giving (as if from their pockets) even 33% of the seats for women cannot be tolerated by our Lallujis and Mulayams and many others who toe the same line of Yadavs from behind the scene, as a result of which the bill is languishing in the parliament since 1996. In Karnataka there is a lone woman minister in Shobha Karandlaje (she was ousted for sometime) to represent 50% of the women of the state.
The list of such quirky paradoxes is endless and we need to put an end to it if we are to make any headway in improving the lot of our women. True, we have laws galore aimed at the betterment of women. But sadly, their implementation is lacking sincerity and the loopholes make it all the more byzantine. And aren’t we all too familiar with the same clichéd phrase ‘justice delayed justice denied’?.
In today’s rocket age, a nation like ours can prosper only when its women folk are on equal footing with men, with the same opportunities in all sphere of life. Ultimately, the well-being of a nation mirrors in the status of its women population. True, some women have attained success, beyond the realm of our imagination, which is largely due to their individual efforts, and they have worked doubly hard to prove their talent if not their superiority (if that satisfies the bruised egos of our males).
It is not enough if IWD gets lost in the trajectory of one of the many days earmarked for various reasons, or events or individuals the world over. Our women should feel that everyday is like an IWD. Only then can we say we have done justice to the struggle and work done by Clara Zetkin of Germany , who first tabled the idea of International Women’s Day, and thousands of others like her, who laid a strong foundation for IWD a hundred years ago.