By Ramesh K Dhiman : With a surfeit of perfuntory rituals marking the International Women’s Day (IWD) (March 8) singing paeans for woman emancipation and empowerment, yet another day would slip into the pages of history. The perfunctory razzmatazz may bag a free travel offers for women on this day in public transports, besides ushering in a myriad of ‘welfare schemes’ for bettering their lot, inviting a plethora of praises and plaudits for their formidable fetes of fortitude and, to cap it all, hosting debates on the idiot box focusing on their genuine concerns and so on. But, what all do these poor mortals receive at the end of the day – social stigma, domestic violence, modesty-blaze, gang rapes, acid attacks, dowry deaths, and police bashing in full public view and so on?
Ironically, when the perfunctory ritual to commemorate the gala day (IWD) was underway across the world last year with never-before enthusiasm and fanfare, a pregnant woman from Haryana’s sleepy outpost, Bhakri Kheri, who was gang-raped by three sex-hungry hounds in an secluded liquor vend under the watch of her husband, had to rush to the that area’s police station all by herself., where too she was she was mal-treated. In yet another glaring case of police highhandedness, a young woman was brutally bashed up by cops in Tarn Taran (Punjab) in full public view, while yet another was subjected to modesty blaze in a crowded bus in Moga district of Punjab by a man in ‘khaki’, adding to the ever-burgeoning graph of the police brutalities unleashed against women. Examples are a dime a dozen where police have been caught orchestrating atrocities on women thus inviting a widespread condemnation over the brash-bold act of violence against women.
While in some countries of the world, the IWD is a mere mumbo jumbo, the historic day holds greater significance in certain others where the day is commemorated as the day of deliverance for women of the country. Gone are the days when woman was subjected to a gross gender bias in a male-dominated society and battled the stigma of being ‘frailty thy name is woman’. The new-age woman has stormed the centre stage in a big way, be it any sphere – from a perfect home maker to the who’s who of literature and polity, thus causing a shake-up in the hitherto a male bastion.
The role of a quintessential woman, as a doting daughter, a caring mother, a consummated spouse, and a dutiful daughter-in-law, has earned her a well-deserved soubriquet of being “Ghar Ki Rani” (queen of the house). She has emerged as a perfect manifestation of the mighty ‘Maa Durga’ (The goddess of power), besides being the epitome of endurance, courage and creativity. She has the uncanny knack of dovetailing herself in any of the given roles with an incredible felicity and precision. Now, she has even made inroads into the proverbial male bastion and carved out a special niche for herself, be it her conventional home turf, bureaucracy, education, science and technology, Para-military forces, entrepreneurship, politics and any other sphere, hitherto a strict no-woman-domain, and has proved her mettle by delivering her hundred per cent. She has not only restricted her role to her own country but has made forays into international arenas, where they have given a run for their male partners.
A quintessential woman has a reason to rejoice over this hard-earned share of the success that she has earned after a long-drawn struggle and by making supreme sacrifices. She has come a long way, enduring all kinds of hardships handed out to her by the male-dominated society. She has been subjected to untold sufferings since time immemorial that she took in her stride. Her quest for securing justice for herself has remained a distant dream, with the successive state and central dispensations giving her nothing but false hopes by resorting to piecemeal measures when it came to address her genuine concerns, to say the least.
The IWD was designed as a sublime socio-political event in Germany, Switzerland and some other countries, where the theme celebration was marked by raising genuine concerns surrounding the rights of women. The nondescript event assumed greater significance with time, with the United Nations General Assembly declaring March 8 as the Women’s Rights Day and the World Peace Day. Souvenirs, gifts and goodies were exchanged between men and women of all age groups on this day, which marked the end of the one-day festivity. The annual compulsory ‘ritual’ comes to an end amid pontificating harangues, merely to buy sympathy by selling false hopes for them.
Even after bagging a space and prominence for her in the present societal set-up, the feel-good factor of woman freedom and empowerment, we still address her home maker and raise children to carry on the bloodline what precisely defines her status in the typical Indian society. What to talk of being a home maker, a majority of women are still under facing discrimination on account of their gender and are subjected to all kinds of atrocities.
A dispassionate view around the reveals that even if we talk about the working couples, it is the woman who has to go the extra mile in terms of attending to the household chores, compared to her male partner. She is the one who is supposed to shoulders the responsibility in the kitchen or attend to other needs of the elderly and ailing family members. She has no leisure time to unwind from her gripping daily grind. There is no denying that the woman is at the receiving end whenever trivialities occur in the household. A random survey reveals that a majority of women, except for a staggering percentage of their ilk in the higher echelon, are still living under the shadow of servility, social stigma, injustice and social and economic discrimination.
It is a matter of disgrace that we could not replicate a semblance of what our proud predecessors taught us to do. We must hang our heads in shame when we shed light on the inexplicable plight of woman today. She continues to suffer in silence as in the past, without a distance flickering hope of their lot going for a makeover. Then, what kind of rumblings of women empowerment do we hear day in and day out? We could not get rid of the stigma ever since we freed ourselves from the alien hegemony more than six decades ago. The much hyped issue of ameliorating the lot of the Indian woman remains a pipe dream, notwithstanding the repeated rhetoric by those at the helm.
The daring gang rape of Nirbhaya, a young physiotherapist, on a Delhi’s bustling road, is a grim reminder of the tardy manner with which such an alarming issue surrounding the safety and security of women is being addressed. Could the raging public outrage in Delhi that followed the savage act, secure justice for the millions of Nirbhayas across the country, by stirring those lording over Delhi out of their supine pasture to take a call to assuage the hurt sentiments of those who batted for the brave heart through incessant howling? The answer is emphatic ‘no’.
Even her tragic death in a Goa hospital failed to move them to decide on taking those involved in the heinous crime to task. A series of marathon discussions, deliberations and debates on whether or not fast-track courts may be set up to try those involved in the chilling sexual misadventures. Whether or not chemical castration or death penalty or life term is awarded to those involved in this most heinous crime? Whether the juvenile delinquent who masterminded the crime is let off without being punished for the crime by the court or not, remains to be seen.
One wonders as to why should be two sets of rule for the adult and the juvenile, rich and the poor and low-caste and the upper caste? And, there was a brain-storming debate over as to whether the attempted gang rape was ‘simple’ rape or a rare of the rarest ones’. At the end of the day, nothing came on the ground out of these hollow deliberations. The Nirbhaya’s tormentors were sitting with their fingers crossed without any qualms, as those at the helm waiting for something of that kind occur yet again.
Instead of putting in place out a stringent mechanism to penalize Nirbhaya’s tormentors, what came forth in the form of gratuitous advice was absurd and offending, to say the least. Some supported a blanket ban on the freedom of women. A pack of political bigwigs sought a self-imposed ban on their sartorial choices, asking girls to abandon their fetish for jeans and outlandish outfits, and so on. A self-styled god, who is cooling his heels in a jail on the charge of rape, had the audacity to add “The victim should have addressed her tormentors as ‘brothers’ and begged their mercy…”
May be the woman today has secured a safe space for herself and scaled height of glory in every sphere under the sun, she remains squarely vulnerable to grievous crimes. She is not safe at home, at a bustling market place, and even at her place of work, despite a set of laws in place. Day in and day out, reports of modesty blaze, acid attacks or other sexual assaults keep adding to the astronomical crime graph. Woman continues to live under a constant fear psychosis of being targeted by her colleagues and even the bosses at her place of work as law of the land does not provide for physical protection of woman. She continues to suffer in silence. Left with no obvious choice, the innocent victim resorts to ending life than to facing a social stigma.
So that the International Women’s Day does not become a misnomer, we need to be more focused on the safety and security of woman, which remains the basic idea of the ritual. A mere mumbo jumbo will hardly serve any useful purpose. And, she herself needs to rise against the rising crime against her, to say the least. “We need to spearhead a march against the atrocities perpetrated against us mortals, dubbed as ‘Frail and fickle-minded’. If we remained confined to our comfy cocoons, we are sure to invite even more troubles for ourselves. Succumbing to a situation under duress makes us coward and weakens our fighting spirit. We need to on our toes to take on any eventuality even if we require making small sacrifices in the run-up to protect our self-esteem.” Shivani, pursuing her Masters in Mathematics at DAV-10, quipped.
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor and columnist)