I wrote this piece on Youth Ki Awaaz on the International Women Day, ‘Celebrate Equality and not Tokenism’ and you can write an excerpt below. Click on the link to read the full piece.
Every March 8, we celebrate International Women Day where we pitch for change in the way we view women and tweet with hashtags for equality or respect and share massively on Facebook. Isn’t it time for us, men and women to move beyond mere tokenism and implement the changes that we want to see? Certainly, it demands a change in our mindset and courage to be able to stand for our women, against our elders, or for that matter, let her bloom as a human being.
I want to narrate what some of my female friends shared with me. After she got married, one of my friends told me how her in-laws tried to impose their cultural practice on her taking into account that both she and her husband belong to different castes. She gathered her strength and put her foot down. Really! It’s one thing that we fail to understand that a girl has left her home and parents to adjust to a new life and how we stifle her individuality by enforcing such ridiculous and stone aged practice.
Read the full article here.
Maya is a divorcee with a son and works in an advertising agency in Mumbai. She parties hard, binges on alcohol and is a chain-smoker but at the same times dote on her son. She stays late at work so that her son is not deprived of anything in life. Maya is a subject of male jokes in office and rumors that she sleeps around but she couldn’t care less as she has reached a stage in life where nothing affect her existence. She is the new age woman and mom and is very comfortable being a woman.
In a village faraway in Uttar Pradesh, Shabri is resigned to her fate and lives for her two daughters in the small hut with her husband, a planter who gets drunk every day and beats her to death. She willingly comply to her husband’s physical and sexual violence to protect her innocent daughters. Often she thinks, What was I born as a woman? Perhaps to atone for the sins of my past life. Shabri is repeatedly raped every night as Ravindra came home drunked as he burns her leg, hand and back with his cigarette. Once, he brought a prostitute home and started having sex in front of the daughters who were scared to death. As Ravindra took a bottle to hit their daughters, Shabri couldn’t contain her anger and snatched the bottle fro his hand and hit her husband hard on his head. Ravindra’s body lay still on the floor and the police came and handcuffed Shabri. Nobody knew what was the outcome of Shabri and her two tiny daughters.
Tamanna, a journalist, book author and social activist in Pakistan was shot dead by religious extremists. She visited villages in her life time to encourage girls to study so that they break away from the shackles of society and carve a niche for themselves. She fought against all odds so that young girls break free from the traditional male’s world and free themselves from religious bigotry and urged them to fight fundamentalism. One day, religious extremists found that their doctrine was slipping away from their hands and gunned down Tamanna who was reaching her flat in Rawalpindi back from a seminar where she unveiled the hypocrisy of fundamentalism.
This is the plight of women in a society living in a society mired by patriarchal pre-established norms where the voice and progress of women is viewed as a threat to the existence of man. The gang rape of Nirbhaya has shocked the whole world and this has not prevented rape in a society where women are increasingly viewed with suspicion, subjected to harassment and violence. There are some places where women do not have a voice and are defenseless because of rules established by Panchayat and religious extremists. It’s not better in the corporate world where men has to take orders from women and trust me, the men do not take it kindly at all. Behind the back of the woman, these men will spread all kind of rumors. You name it, you get it..she must have slept around to climb her way in the hierarchy, she smokes, drinks and parties, she is a slut. It’s revolting when men so easily point out at the number of men a woman has dated over a life time or slept with and she is looked with contempt if she is a single woman who lives alone or is in a live-in relationship. We are living in a society smeared with hypocrisy in the way we deal with women.
Let’s take a look at commercial sex workers and how they are deprived of basic human rights. They are repeatedly harassed by the police for money and subjected to violence and no one came up with laws to protect them. I mean they are citizens of a country and they should be dealt with in a humane way. These are some of the changes that one need to dwell upon as we celebrate international women day. Isn’t it ironic that we worship women form in temples but we never shy away fro harassing a woman and calling her names. Perhaps, I am one of the rare men who believe in equality which I think must happen to prevent violence. It’s a plea for a better and fairer society.
Happy Woman Day