Women’s day has come and gone. A day to celebrate women’s achievements. But seriously why do we need to be reminded to do so? If only we learnt to give respect, encouragement, where it is due and not suppress, belittle, encroach on women’s rights.
Musings On Women’s Day
It’s Women’s Day today and I was worried that my wallet might lose some weight. Valentine’s Day has just gone by and we men haven’t yet recovered from that fiscal blow and already another day that favours women? But then I was relieved to know that this was a day to celebrate women’s achievements and talk about women’s issues. Now speaking of women’s issues today they say the world is flat’ but for the women this new century though has brought promise, ‘the world is still at an incline’.
According to a survey, women do more than 67% of the hours of work done in the world, yet earn just 10% of the world’s income. To add, the survey says that women are paid 30-40% less than men for comparable work on an average. Five years ago, it was reported that there were 80 million unwanted pregnancies of which there were 20 million unsafe abortions and caused 5 lakh maternal deaths. So much for the cradle of human life.
What I mentioned above are the global statistics. In India, women’s wage rates are, on an average only 75 % of men’s wage rates. Close to 245 million Indian women lack the basic capability to read and the average nutritional intake of women is 1,400 calories daily when it should be at least 2,200 calories. 300 women die every day due to childbirth and pregnancy-related causes.
As I was thinking about these women’s issues while driving to work this morning, the traffic suddenly slowed down. Soon I figured why? It was a bullock cart overloaded with construction material moving slow due to the unbearable burden on it. As I passed the cart I looked at the ox, it was just skin and bones. Women and bovines are very similar in the sense of how they are treated by man. These two are the most revered in our country. They talk of Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Parvathi, goddesses of wealth, education and protection. In the bovine category they talk of Kamadenu, the holy cow and the bull that was lord Shiva’s choice of transport. But look how these two are treated. It is a mirror to our hypocrisy.
CLOTHES AND COLOUR
The Indian woman has it hard right from the start. In most parts of our country a girl child’s first birth day begins not with a cheer but with a “Oh! It a girl”, a disappointed sigh and soon the psychological trauma begins with the question, “Is she at least fair?”
In recent times, everyone is talking about modesty of women and how her clothes are so very important. The virtue of an Indian woman it seems now-a-days sadly stems from her clothes! If the girl dresses in a simple cotton sari or wears a salwar kameez she is decent and virtuous but if she wears Jeans and a top she is immediately branded “modern and fast”. How wrong. How ignorant.
Recently this ignorance was splashed all over the newspapers when a government official speaking on the New Year molestation case said, “women should dress ‘modestly’ so as to not sexually provoke men. But may be the official does not know that the women were wearing trousers, is that an immodest dress? Then one of the molesters said “did you see those girls, they were drunk.” I say so what, and what kind of non-sensical statement is that? Does it mean that just because someone is drunk, you can molest them?
Everyone talks of women dressing ‘modestly’, now what about men? Do men dress modestly? If we apply the same rules of modesty to men and if women behaved like men then half the Indian male population would be molested. Look how modestly dressed and behaved men are, half of them are grabbing at their crouch all the time, half the youngsters are wearing tight T-shirts that could stop blood circulation to their brains and most men come out of a party drunk, this gives plenty of opportunity for molestation. Maybe men need to be molested a few times before they can talk about women and modesty. But then speaking of the ‘modest dress’, according to Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code which mentions the arrest of a culprit for attempt to outrage the modesty of women does not have any condition about the victim’s “dress”. So the law is clear, it does not matter what dress or what state of mind the woman is in, nothing justifies a molestation.
Then the colour issue. It doesn’t matter for most part what colour a man is, but if the girl is not fair then it’s a problem. Now thanks to the fairness cream Fair N Handsome even men are dragged into it. Good I say, let them get a taste of how the women feel.
I remember a few years ago when I met an elderly teacher whose son was to go see a girl for marriage, when I enquired what happened, she said, “girl is homely, adre solpa blaku” I was shocked because her son was not just “solpa blaku” he was “full blaku” and she had the arrogance to discriminate against someone. We Indians are too hung up on colour. We say the Western world is racist, I say we are more racist and so blatant about it that we don’t even think of it as being discriminatory. Even an educated movie star like Sharukh Khan does not care that by doing a Fair N Handsome advertisement he is ingraining racism into the Indian psyche. This I found ironic because I have seen Sharukh Khan in person and he is not fair. I guess he like most Indians cares more about money than the repercussions.
The media too has not been fair to women and women’s issues. Just because you employ smart talking and good looking anchors does not mean you are promoting the cause of women. Women’s issues need to be covered in depth. In India it’s all the more important because women actually listen, read and watch issues related to them. Rural women want to be better and if they are informed, they will act upon that information. Here I believe Akashavani has done a fabulous job.
Then it is time we stopped promoting only glamorous women. I remember when princess Diana died a National Daily carried a two-page condolence message for her but when Mother Teresa died, the same newspaper didn’t even have a half-page condolence message. Princess Diana was a compassionate tourist who visited us once, where as Mother Teresa was an institution, she was a saint who saved millions of Indians. This misguided publicity is what needs to change. We need to promote the non-glamorous women also, because usually these non-glamorous women are the ones with the most substance and create the most impact on the most important part of the Indian population.
Jessica Lal case aroused so much of interest. Youngsters took out candle marches, Bollywood big wigs held placards and walked all over the streets of Delhi and Mumbai. Good, but why isn’t there the same intensity in protest when it comes to getting justice for women who are raped regularly in UP. Why didn’t anyone cheer for the two women Rasheeda Bee and Champa Devi who fought for the Bhopal gas disaster victims? Their country men did not appreciate them but they received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2004.
Women in politics have always been sidelined. 33% reservation bill has been sitting in the Parliament for a while now. In fact this morning, Renuka Chowdary, Minister for Women and Child Welfare, said that the Bill would be discussed again. I doubt how many women in the country will benefit with the 33% reservation.
If anything, education for women is what the government must aim for and achieve. Educating a mother has long lasting effect on the society and the future of India. The mother is usually the one who instills basic sense of hygiene, civic sense and principles in a child and an educated and well informed mother is definitely what the country needs in the long run.
If women have to be treated equal, the attitude of the Indian male has to be change. Let’s not waste our time looking for excuses for men’s bad behavior in women’s clothes and habits. Men must stop making excuses that they are treated as ATM machines and sperm banks.
Men must learn to treat women with respect, with compassion and with a sense of awe; after all she is the cradle of life.
There are numerous women’s issues that can be written about but , I will stop at this and end it with a few lines from TJS George’s article written in 1998, he writes, “There are ways to ensure the human rights and dignity of women. But to make these a reality, those in power need two simple qualities- honesty and guts. And these are just the qualities those in power will not have. They will have no honesty because they are politicians, and they will have no guts because they are men.”