March 4 was observed as World Day of Fight against Sexual Exploitation in order to create awareness against sexual exploitation, which overwhelmingly involves women and children. Everyday we come across news-report that many women, girls and often young boys, are trapped by international criminal networks. They exploit them sexually, traffic and enslave them. Every year nearly million people are sexually exploited.
The expression exploitation shall include any act of physical exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs. The declining sex ratio in India adequately portrays the discrimination shown towards women at the stage of birth. They are victims of crime directed specifically at them, rape, kidnapping and abduction, dowry-related crimes, molestation, sexual harassment, eve-teasing, etc. Inspite of constitutional and legal safeguards, the women in India continues to suffer, due to lack of awareness of their rights, illiteracy and oppressive practices and customs.
Incidences like sexual abuse by near relatives, co-habitation with near or dear friends and subsequent decline of marriages and issues relating to illegal pregnancy etc. are the real fact, the information of which remains mostly in darkness. In addition, girl students molested by teachers or repeated sexual abuse by antisocial activists are also an unfortunate reality.
The exploitation of women in the media has become so familiar, particularly in advertising, which most people fail to even notice or get annoyed anymore. Women’s body is continually used to sell cars, cigarettes, liquors, male perfume and other recognized products, as well as newspapers, magazines and television programmes. One would find that with today’s media, women and their bodies are used and exposed to sell and promote products. Corporations today encourage women to exploit their bodies and sexuality because they know sex sells not only to males but it also does end up catching the attention of women.
In today’s society, people come across television advertisements such as Slice featuring Katrina Kaif, in which women are being offered in provocative manner. The camera will habitually zoom in on body parts. Society is still very much dominated by men who manage what people see. As a consequence, women are increasingly shown as sex symbols, so the media companies can increase their profitability. The Internet also has grown to be one of the biggest exploiters of women.
From this perspective, women and girls are viewed solely as objects of desire and for their bodies, instead of whole individuals who have emotions, personalities, and behaviors beyond the scope of the act of sex. India is a source, destination and transit country for women being trafficked for the use of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Women are being held in debt bondage and are very vulnerable to forced labour working in rice mills, brick kilns, agriculture and in embroidery factories.
In order to improve their status, women themselves should come forward and unite. They should draw encouragement from women like Indira Gandhi, the first woman Prime Minister of India, Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman IPS officer; Pratibha Patil, the first woman President of India and many others. Education is one of the powerful tools in the liberation and the empowerment of women. It is the single utmost factor which can amazingly improve the position of women in any society. It is to be remembered that a nation’s progress and prosperity can be evaluated by the way it treats its women.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)