B S Raghavan

Women are far from journey’s end

B. S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on March 12, 2018

Today is International Women’s Day. One wonders whether it is not really a reminder that it is still a Man’s World! Funny that one half of the world’s population has to have a day earmarked for it to be able to affirm its significance and importance!

I just took the sample views of sections of women representing different generations and walks of life. Prof B. Rajalakshmi, long retired as Head of the Department of Chemistry of Fathima College, Madurai, says that the day is “certainly an honour to women, a recognition of their needs and capabilities, but one such day can have no meaning unless it is followed by 364 days of relentless fighting of gender injustice still persisting in society…”

Dr Mira Govindarajan, Superintendent of a corporate hospital, puts the onus on women themselves: “A true women’s day will dawn only when the women of the world themselves consider that building a marriage, a home and a family and raising children to be enlightened and emotionally evolved is as important as, if not of greater importance than, building a career or business…”

This is from Shakunthala G.Rao, who was a marketing executive in a media house:” I am not at all clear what purpose this day serves…Recent events in the nation’s capital over the gang rape and murder of a young professional only show that it may take another century for a country like India to recognise the importance and role of women.”

INTERESTING FIGURES

There has been no dearth of drum-beating on the part of the global community about the rights and opportunities women ought to have. But the United Nations, where all such declarations of days and years for particular causes have their origin, admits sombrely that “nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men…. everywhere, women continue to be victims of violence, with rape and domestic violence listed as significant causes of disability and death among women of reproductive age worldwide.”

Here are some interesting figures gleaned from various sources: The majority of the world’s 1.3 billion absolute poor are women. Seventy five per cent of displaced people due to war are women. On average, women receive between 30 and 40 per cent less pay than men earn for the same work. Only 24 women have been elected heads of state or government in this century…women’s representation at the highest level of government is generally weakest in Asia…Only 14.1 per cent of representatives elected to Parliaments around the world are women, up from 11.7 in 1997. The percentage of female cabinet ministers worldwide has risen from 3 in 1987 to 6.2 per cent in 1996. Of the 189 highest ranking diplomats to the UN, only eleven are women.

For all the talk of gender budget and the impassioned pronouncements of persons in public life and the Government, the position of women in India has shown very little improvement. The Bill for one-third of representation for women in legislatures has become a joke.

INVINCIBLE FORCE

According to the report Men and Women in India in 2012 brought out by the Ministry of Statistics, in 2012, women occupied only eight out of 74 ministerial positions in the Union council of ministers. There were only two women judges out of 26 judges in the Supreme Court, and there were only 54 women judges out of 634 judges in various high courts.

Married women in India, whether living in urban or rural areas, take only around 25-30 per cent of the decisions regarding obtaining healthcare for themselves and 7-12 per cent for purchasing major household items. Only 10-12 per cent of the decisions are taken by women regarding visiting their family or kin.

As high as 46 per cent of women (15-19 years) are not involved in any kind of decision making. Not more than 40 per cent of women have access to money.

Cruelty by husband and relatives continues to occupy the highest share (43.4 per cent) among the crimes committed against women in 2011, followed by molestation (18.8 per cent). Only 10.4 per cent cases of cruelty committed by husband and relatives underwent trial last year, and conviction was secured in a paltry 8.3 per cent of the cases.

Only about 39 per cent of all women in India actually attend primary schools.

Then there are the religious and caste taboos that further worsen the plight of women.

For instance, the khap panchayats in India have become a menace and their atrocious kangaroo court verdicts very often lead to deprivation of life and liberty of women.

There is also the question whether women alone should be subjected to a dress code as a part of religious prescription. It, indirectly or by implication, seems to assume women to be frail and fragile, and incapable of standing shoulder to shoulder with men in public life and in every field of activity.

What is the solution? It is time women themselves awake, arise, organise themselves into an invincible force and carry on a powerful campaign such as that of the suffragists’ movement until their goal is reached.

Published on March 07, 2013

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