By Sanubaba Prasai ,Nepal : A century has gone by since we have started marking International Woman’s Day. We feel that the more we have celebrated International Woman’s Day, the more it is becoming ineffective. The 101st International Woman’s Day on March 8, 2011 concluded in a mere formality. It is true that despite celebrating so many ‘International Woman’s Day’ there has been little improvement in the lives of women covering half the sky. In spite of marking so many ‘International Woman’s Day’ we have failed to analyze the progress side responsible for undertaking the advocacy of women’s rights. This is also a reason as to why there has been little improvement in the rights of woman and woman’s day.We can hear the names of only few women activists in the leadership level too few to count on fingers. They have too failed to implement the issues of women’s interest and rights responsibly. After the World War II the voices for women’s rights have intensified globally. In many nations women have worked in the leadership of head of state, head of government, foreign affairs and also in responsible positions in various social sectors. In Israel Goldamayar was a woman Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi in India, BhandaraNaike and Chandika Kumaratunga in Sri Lanka, Margaret Thatcher in England, Begam Khalida Jiya and Seikh Hasina in Bangladesh as Prime Minister and President respectively. Currently Prativa Patil is president of India. The famous late Benezir Bhutto was once the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Although many women have occupied such leadership positions there have not been any achievements in regards to women’s issues. In England, during the rule of Victoria, Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II achievements in regard to the uplifting of women’s status could not be seen.
Women round the globe face almost the similar problems. Beginning of immemorial time women have encountered a weaker and lower status than that of man. This discrimination is rife not only in developing nations but the developed nations. Citizens have a tremendous responsibility in many nations of the world. A country is common to all. A due attention ought to be given to a sensitive issue as gender while creating a nation. A nation where women are victims of backwardness, illiteracy, legal discrimination and tradition can never develop. A woman has a huge responsibility in a home. If a mother is literate and socially aware such a house can become a heaven. Manu has said- ‘Yatra Ramante Nari, Tatra Ramante Devata’, meaning a home where a woman is happy will be resided by Gods. George Herbert said- ‘A good mother is better than a hundred Gurus.’ Napoleon said- ‘Give me a good mother and I will give you a good nation. The hand which rocks the cradle will rule.’ From this we can surmise the degree of responsibility that lies with a woman. The efforts of a man and woman have created modern human civilization. But due to lack of coordination between these two, the human civilization has become handicapped.
There is the natural difference between a woman and man. With a respect to the natural differences both the sides must acknowledge their responsibilities. If women are to take responsibility they will never lag behind. A woman can fulfill her duty in all circumstances. Before the establishment of the United Nations women had played active roles. This can be exemplified from the revolution in Algeria where women carried bombs in name of independence. The queen of Jhansi sacrificed herself for the nation till her final days. Similarly during the Anglo-Nepal war Nepali woman fought against the English with their children by their side in Nalapani-the border of greater Nepal.
Woman of western nations and Muslim countries are subjected to higher degree of discrimination than in a Hindu society. French women were given right to vote only some decades ago. From then onwards women of other societies were able to open their eyes. If there was to be a tradition to include women in various state organs it would give a positive reflection to the society. Take my example for a while; I have worked as Manager in women’s unit at Tripureshwor-Kathmandu branch of Agricultural Development Bank for four years. During my term I did not find a slightest defect on part of the women employees. Whereas, when I worked as manager in Naya Baneshwor for three years with men employees I faced many difficulties and hurdles. This contrast reflects that women’s leadership and participation can be creative.
In course of the development of civilization, Muslim women were kept apart from male society. In a Muslim society women are treated as slave. The views of Dr. Taslima Nasarin published in her works reflect how Muslim women are treated as dolls by male society. Apart from some exceptional cases of financially strong women, rests of other women in Muslim society are not free. There have been no efforts made in regard to pave way for their emancipation. For example Muslim women during the International Women’s Conference held in Beijing, China in 1995 wore body covered black dress (burkha) and did a march pass. Women are made to live behind these curtains in order to save their identities, which is sheer example of discrimination. Although such practices are not found in a Hindu society, however, being a patriarchal society there are many examples of women being subject to discrimination. The prevalent practices of untouchables in Hindu society have further worsened the already enfeebled plight of Dalit and untouchable women.
In Nepal, Women Human Rights Defenders and many women org. are active in advocating against all forms of violence against women, rape, torture, domestic violence, acid burning, and murder. They are also campaigning for economic, social, cultural rights such land rights, property rights, right to housing, right to food, sexual and reproductive rights, rights of women working in the entertainment sector, rights of the disabled, rights of marginalized groups. Civil and political rights also form a considerable part of the women’s movement in Nepal. Caste based discrimination, enforced disappearance, extortions, torture, rights of ethnic groups, rights of sexual minorities, rights to freedom of opinion and expression are issues that the women human rights movement is struggling to promote and protect.’ But, the evilness of the existing societies is not reformed.
There is no legal mechanism to punish the men showing discriminatory behaviors toward women. Due to this women are forced to live in perpetual fear. Unless women are freed from the shackles of fear the talks of women’s rights will be worthless. If such a legal mechanism is introduced, men out of fear of retribution will refrain from destroying powerful women. We have heard that women with poor financial background are made to suffer at the hands of men. They have even been murdered. A news was published in March 3, 2011 edition of Gorkhapatra- ‘Armed Police Force personnel, Umesh Poudel, 28, killed his elder wife with a three year old daughter after he brought home his second wife.’ On March 4 the same newspaper published another report-‘A husband enraged by wife, Laxmi Gurung, was splattered with boiling tea for refusing to give money for buying alcohol. The woman has three children and runs a tea shop.’ Due to a weak state, women around the world are facing similar circumstances. If a strict law is enforced in the interest of the women of this world such heinous crimes will not develop.
Men make discriminatory laws and codes of conduct. Either they have not understood women’s woes or they do not want to understand. Husband’s presence is a must during baptism of a child born of a raped woman. The state is not clear on this matter. However, Supreme Court verdict that the child born of a raped woman will acquire citizenship on basis of mother’s citizenship certificate has given some relief to such women. The state is not heeding to sensitive question of providing citizenship to a Nepali woman in a marital bond with a foreigner. In Nepali context the state has not introduced a strict legal mechanism as a result of which the problems between men and women have not been resolved. A misfortune is that a woman is always despised by a society. A woman is compelled to marry an old and feeble man for sake of his property. This has psychologically effected women’s belief on becoming independent. How can we liberate women from such a society?
The issue of giving inherited property to daughters alike sons is a good thing. Nepal is located in between India and China. If a woman of this country marries a foreigner of either of these two giant nations the issue of inheritance will become a big matter. Many women have been beaten to the point of becoming handicapped for their failure to present satisfying dowry. In many places women are forced out of their husband’s house for not bringing sufficient dowry. In some instances they are burned alive. The victim parties in such situation have rarely received justice. If an unscrupulously taken decision of entitling daughters to inherited property is made compulsory, what will happen to a financially weak family? A stretch of Nepal’s border from Taplejung to Darchula is joined with India. In these areas usually Nepali women have marital relationships across the border to India. The Indian son in law, father in law and his relatives seek inherited property of their daughter in law. They go to court to file a lawsuit for this property. This brings hindrance in the relation with son in law and his relatives.
Even though such policies are for good, the state must be sensitive in such precarious issues as granting the same right of inheritance to daughters as that to sons. The state must try to make women, with concession, stand on their own feet. Literate women, those working in governmental and non governmental sectors and politicians must abandoned the way to utilize and consume the facilities by themselves and show their competence in support of all the women of the society. The International Women’s Day must not only remain a formality but all together work between the men and women. So, it is very necessary that the problems faced by women and the liberation of human society from these problems must be addressed from state level.