Thursday, March 12, 2009

8th March?!?

Why celebrate Women’s day when we fail to celebrate our women?

Though there had been quantum of empirical studies and academic experiments on how investments upon women with respect to education, health and employment gives much better returns as compared to their male counterparts, hardly anything worthwhile has been done in that direction. Apparently there might be some form of cosmetic evidence of the growing role of women in today’s society, but then it is just restricted to few pockets of the urbane society. Other than these, the state of women has actually deteriorated with time!

In our case, we should feel ashamed to even celebrate the International Women’s Day, for there is hardly any reason for celebration. No doubt gender equality was well recognised by the constitution that further granted women equal rights to be a part of the universal adult franchise and also paved a way towards position of power - be it as President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister or as Central Minister. Yet, the nation experiences innumerable cases of rapes, molestation and murders that take place in the broad daylight. That’s not all, the age old malaise of dowry, sati, and child marriage still breeds in many pockets across the country. As per the recent Lancet research, annually, there are over 1,06,000 fire-related deaths of women, six times higher than the total reported incidents. The noteworthy point is that most of these deaths share common causes viz. kitchen accidents, self-immolation and domestic violence. Supporting the same, National Family Health Survey reveals that around 37.2 per cent of married Indian women regularly experience domestic violence. Although this figure in itself is quite high many research estimates this figure to be anywhere around 65 per cent!! The fact that makes the issue more horrifying is that around 75 per cent of all abused women are impelled towards suicide. Eventually, the whole problem trickles down to the basic fact that most of these cases go unreported or else is manipulated under the veil of normal domestic accidents. Moreover, the existing cultural norms often prevent women to step out and file for complaints, thus allowing the perpetrators to get away easily. Most of women suffer from this deep-rooted fear of losing their bread-earner in case they retaliate, and some extend compromises on account of their children, given the fact that being single-mother and divorcee is still a social stigma. All in all, as long as our women are being traded, molested and victimised, calling ourselves a great society is a matter of utter shame. The solution just does not revolve around increasing women's responsibilities but can be addressed by involving men to combat domestic violence. In countries like the US and Canada, programs like 'batterer intervention programs' is designed to undo sexism. Even White Ribbon Campaign and Namibian Men for Change are on the same lines. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, to some extent seems to be a ray of hope, is very discretely implemented. If Maharashtra appointed 3,687 protection officers and filed 2751 cases, last year, then Gujarat compromised with merely 25 and filed less than 50 cases.

Everything, starting from increasing political representation to women empowerment will all fall flat until and unless we as a nation make those changes by design itself and incorporate the same with an intention of nation building. Till then, women of India, who constitutionally share the same platform with men in almost all spheres, will have just one hollow ceremonial day to appreciate their sacrifices and contribution to the society – the International Women’s Day!!!


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