Despite celebrating Women’s Day for the last so many years, the cases of rape, molestation, and violence towards women are increasing in India. However, does celebrating Women’s Day make any difference in the lives of women in India or celebrating Women’s Day for a day is just a manifestation of years-long discrimination and torture towards them?
There are so many campaigns by national and international women’s rights organisations around the world over the years; child marriages still prevail, girl children and women are trafficked and forced into labour and prostitution. They are deprived of their very basic human rights and access to education and as well as participation in society. In spite of having so many national, state-based organisations and government schemes, the ratio of neonatal and maternal deaths are yet to find its end.
Actor Diksha Sonawane expressed, “Every day of our life should be Happy Women’s Day — to fulfill a wish and feel alive. However, live to the fullest on this day because this day and time are only for you. Women were never weak. If you are firm on your decision, you can progress in life. Education is a very powerful tool for woman empowerment. An independent woman can support other girls to voice their mind. Street plays in urban or rural areas can also help in spreading awareness.”
The first International Women’s Day occurred on March 19 in 1911. The inaugural event, which included rallies and organised meetings, was a big success in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. The March 19 date was chosen because it commemorated the day that the Prussian king promised to introduce votes for women in 1848. The promise gave hope for equality but it was a promise that he failed to keep. The International Women’s Day date was moved to March 8 in 1913. Former Congress MP Priya Dutt expressed, “Inherently women are empowered; they should celebrate every day and recognise their own strengths. Women being empowered, aware of their rights, and voicing their opinion have brought many progressive changes in society. I see a positive way forward. We should not be quiet when violence against women happens. Women must be more supportive to women and the biggest thing is women security. A woman must feel safe.”
In an annual poll conducted by the Thompson Reuters Foundation in June 2018 titled ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Countries for Women’ ranked India at number one, with Syria, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia came among top five. The result was based on interviews conducted with women across six key areas which included healthcare, discrimination, cultural traditions, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, and human trafficking. Nations were graded on a scale of 1 to 10 on the basis of how women were affected by these six factors, with 10 being the highest a country could score. Moreover, almost 750 million women and girls married before their 18th birthday, resulting in teen pregnancies that can put their health at risk and limiting schooling and opportunities.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Deepali Masirkar spoke to Afternoon Voice and stated, “Every day is special for women. Women have proved themselves to be successful. Everyone should celebrate Women’s Day. Women working in the Police department have to work round the clock and they always give their best efforts in their jobs. We all must encourage gender equality.”
#MeToo movement gained prominence in India with the increasing popularity of the international movement; it gathered sharp momentum in October 2018 in Bollywood when actress Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. This influenced many women to stand against harassments. While #MeToo movement brought many cases to our notice, there remained many other cases silent and untouched in every corner of the country.
Much progress has been made to protect and promote women’s rights in recent times. However, nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men, according to the UN. The majority of the world’s 1.3 billion absolute poor are women. On average, women receive between 30 and 40 per cent less pay than men earn for the same work. Women also continue to be victims of violence, with rape and domestic violence listed as significant causes of disability and death among women worldwide.
NCP MP Vandana Chavan stated, “March 8, Savitribai Phule Divas, Jijamata Jayanti are very special days for all women. Many programs are organised that give women the boost to fight their respective battles. There should not be any discrimination between a boy and a girl child. Old traditions need transformation. Many dargahs and temples still don’t allow women.”