WOMEN’S DAY BE CELEBRATED?
It happened almost 145 years ago, on March 8, 1857. In one of the first organised actions by working women anywhere in the world, hundreds of women workers in garment and textile factories in New York city staged a strike against low wages, long working hours and inhuman working conditions. Fifty-three years later, in August 1910, at a meeting in Copenhagen, the Women’s Socialist International decided to commemorate the strike by observing an annual International Women’s Day. In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating March 8 as International Women’s Day. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on a date to be chosen by each Member State.
Why dedicate a day exclusively to the celebration of the world’s women? The General Assembly cited two reasons:
1) To recognise the fact that securing peace, social progress, the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, require the active participation, equality and development of women.
2) To acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.
For the women of the world, the Day’s symbolism has a wider meaning: It is an occasion to review how far they have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. It is also an opportunity to unite, network and mobilise for meaningful change.
March 8, 2002 was celebrated as yet another International Women’s Day. It was nice to know that women are being recognised and given their due respect, but is it truly so? Are women really respected and cherished the way they should be? Are women genuinely appreciated, loved and cared for? Are women treated with equality? It saddens me to say that the answer is, "NO". This is evident from the ghastly dowry, rape, torture and murder cases that we come across daily in the newspapers. This is evident from the still ongoing social evils of child marriage, selling the girl child, forced marriages to aged men, etc. The list of women’s suffering is endless.
Despite child marriages being banned, we still find the same rampant in our villages and towns. Hardly has the poor child reached her senses when she’s married off to an equally innocent boy, slightly older than her, belonging to the same caste. Once she reaches adolescence, the girl is sent to her husband’s house, when, barely capable of nurturing herself, she gives birth to a baby and then, more. The reproduction cycle commences leaving the young mother undernourished, weak, anaemic and helpless.
It is sad but true. Our society, which considers itself westernised and modern, is still sexist. A girl child is considered a burden even in this age. Modernisation has its own perils what with ultrasound sonography now prevalent, hardly has the child been conceived and every one in the family besides others, are impatient to find out the gender of the foetus. Even today, on discovering a female foetus, the mother is compelled to abort it much against her wishes, thus flouting the law in the process. In small towns and villages, where this facility is not available, the woman keeps on reproducing until the family gets an ‘heir? a son, and then more sons, notwithstanding the deterioration of her health.
EQUAL TO MAN
A real life example is that of a friend in college, who was the first of five children! The sadness on her face made me prompt her to disclose her dilemma. She had mentioned that she was angry and hurt with her parents for reproducing so many children when they could not afford to raise them decently and provide even the basic necessities for them. She stated that since another girl was born after her, the parents reproduced the third child, who turned out to be a boy. I asked her, why two more children thereafter? She angrily said that her grandparents felt that another son is a must in the family to support the parents in their old age. Hence, her helpless mother was compelled to give birth to a fourth child, which unfortunately turned out to be yet another girl. Her miseries ended (or had they begun?) when finally the fifth child was a son. This left the family, which already had meagre resources, more impoverished.
God has created and treated both the male and female gender equally, then why should human beings discriminate between the two? It’s time Indians realise that, not only sons, but daughters also care for their parents even after they are married. In fact there is a popular saying: "A daughter is a daughter till the end of life, a son is a son, till he meets his wife"!
In the earlier days, a man used to remarry if his wife was unable to bear him a son. Unfortunately, this practice is still prevalent among the uneducated class and in the villages too. The helpless woman is taunted, tortured and blamed for not reproducing a son all her life. Fortunately, science has proved otherwise, and now women can stand up for themselves. People should treat a girl child on par with the opposite gender. Today, there is absolutely nothing that women cannot achieve that men have. Be it travelling to outer space, flying an aircraft or manouvering a train, women have excelled in these tasks which were male dominated domains. Women have proved themselves capable and efficient in any and every field / profession, be it doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, journalists, politicians, etc. Then, why is gender discrimination still prevalent?
Should we celebrate International Women’s Day when even in this modern age, an adolescent girl is sold or married to an elderly man for money? A couple of years ago, we had read an incident in the newspapers about a young teenage girl being married (or sold?) to an aged Arab sheikh for money. The Arab was trying to smuggle the miserable girl out of the country in a ‘burkha?when, to her good luck, she was discovered and rescued. If a human life is considered precious and priceless, is a girl / woman worth some petty money? Why is this happening? Have humans forgotten that it is women who have given them birth and life, it is women who have undergone infinite pains to bring them up, it is women who have wiped their tears and encouraged them to come up in their lives, it is the same women who are their mothers.
Marriage is like second birth for women. It is a transition where a woman enters her new home, away from her maternal home, loving parents and siblings, with many dreams and hopes of giving and receiving love, respect, appreciation and care. In spite of being educated, well placed, earning, hard working, virtuous, loving and caring, women are not treated with the same love and respect that is due to them, in most cases by their in-laws and, in some cases, by their husbands, too. Whatever women do is simply not enough as per the phenomenally high standards of in-laws.
Nowadays, women are working hand in hand with their husbands to support the family, besides doing the daily household chores of cooking, cleaning, washing, rearing children, and so much more. They support their husbands financially and emotionally, and in every possible way. They will forego even basic necessities like food, clothes and many other things, thus sacrificing their own lives and happiness, just so that their family is comfortable and happy. There are times when the husbands come home late due to work pressures (?) leaving the wives to shoulder the entire responsibility of managing the home front and the children after coming home fatigued from work themselves. Then, what is amiss?
The demands of in-laws never seem to cease. Giving and receiving ‘dowry?is banned and considered a crime legally, yet it still persists among the educated and uneducated class alike. The more educated the groom, the greater the demands. The bride’s parents meet the demands to their best possible extent, however the in-laws? acquisitiveness increases manifold after marriage. The bride’s parents, who have already incurred huge debts for marriage and dowry, are unable to meet the ceaseless demands of the in-laws and the bride’s life is made miserable thereafter. She is humiliated, abused, beaten, tortured physically, mentally and emotionally and finally, burnt alive. Again, due to gross lacunae in our judicial system, the in-laws and / or the husband go scot-free. The innocent woman has lost her life for no fault or reason on her part. Why should women marry? What do they get from marriage except stress, misery, humiliation, frustration, torture, heartache, anger, tears, ailments and infinite trauma? Divorce rates have shot up, especially in the West, due to decline in tolerance levels but, in India, women are still more resilient, patient and faithful to their spouses despite being tortured, humiliated and harassed daily. Do they deserve this misery in lieu of their love, care, hard work and faithfulness? Definitely NOT.
It is high time that husbands understand that it is their duty to see that their wives are comfortable, happy, respected, appreciated, loved and cared for in their new homes. It is high time that they stand up and protect their wives against the in-laws? torture and treat them with tender love, care, appreciation and equality in the truest sense of the word, "ardhangini", meaning, partner in everything, in happiness and in sorrow, in triumphs and in tribulations, in health and in sickness, until death do them part. It is high time that in-laws start treating their daughters-in-law with respect, if not as daughters, at least treat them like human beings instead of torturing them and treating them as non-existent, non-entities.
When all the above social evils and many other atrocities are done away with and women are respected and treated affectionately with the same love and care that they give others, and which they really do deserve, then and then only can we celebrate and bask in the true spirit of International Women’s Day.
In conclusion, here is a poem in honour of women.
You are made of her flesh, blood and
Niloofer R. Kasad