By Abhishek Jha:
It might sound patriarchal to express surprise at women achieving feats that have hitherto been uncharted by them. However, it is an achievement if these barriers are broken because it is societal norms and pressures that have kept women from achievements that have been hogged by men alone. There were moments in the past week when this barrier breaking was reasserted through some spectacular achievements for women in India. Here we present five of them that made news:
1. Supreme Court Judgment: In a welcome judgment, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that an unwed mother could have the sole guardianship of a child. The court was hearing a petition filed by a mother who wanted to make her son her nominee in all her savings and insurance policies but was asked to declare the father’s name or get a guardianship/adoption certificate. The mother argued that she had known the father for only two months and that the father did not know anything about the child.
The judgment was not without its problematic aspects. For instance the 20 page judgement also says that “Avowedly, the mother is best suited to care for her offspring, so aptly and comprehensively conveyed in Hindi by the word ‘mamta’,” thus almost making it seem that guardianship is the sole ‘duty‘ of a woman. However, this judgment is likely to help those working to remove the stigma attached to unwed mothers and children born out of wedlock.
2. UPSC Results: The results of the Civil Services Exam were declared on the 4th of this month. The top three places were occupied by women. Four of the top five candidates are women. The topper, Delhi’s Ira Singhal, who is differently abled had passed the IRS exam in 2010 but had been refused posting by revenue department and the DoPT. However, Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot, said on Wednesday this week that she could be the brand ambassador for the programmes of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. The Minister also felicitated her on Monday in Delhi.
3. Hockey: With their 1-0 victory over Japan last Saturday, India’s women’s hockey team finished fifth in the World Hockey League, thus keeping their hope of qualifying for the Rio Olympics alive. “Our target was to qualify for Olympics and we are still in contention. All the players played to their strengths. We played against some of the higher ranked teams which gave us insights on our shortcomings. We will work on them to improve our game play and be ready for our Olympic dream,” Ritu Rani, captain of the team said after returning to India on Monday.
4. Cricket: The Indian Women’s Cricket Team won a five match ODI series against New Zealand 3-2 after defeating them in the deciding final match at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. The BCCI announced a Rs 21 lakh reward for the team after its victory on Wednesday. Another achievement was made as Indian captain Mithali Raj became the second batter in women’s cricket to pass the 5,000 runs mark in ODIs. The only other batter who has achieved this feat is England’s Charlotte Edwards.
5. Mountaineering: Twin sisters Tashi and Nancy Malik became the fastest South Asians to complete the Explorers’ Grand Slam on July 3 when they climbed the 5895 metres high Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The Grand Slam requires one to climb the highest peaks in all the seven continent and reaching both the poles on skis. “We are happy to add another moment of pride and glory for the Indian girl child. For now we are focused on raising the bar of performance so that the girls can claim their rightful place of dignity and respect in our society,” Tashi reportedly said.
6. Tennis: Sania Mirza won her first women’s doubles Grand Slam title when she and Martina Hingis defeated the Russian duo of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina on Saturday in Wimbledon. Mirza has won three Grand Slam titles before, albeit in mixed doubles’ tournaments. Wimbledon is considered the most prestigious of the four Grand Slam tournaments. Mirza, in her earlier wins, has already covered the other three turfs.
Such trespassing is not unknown to women in India, who regularly surprise patriarchs with their actions. We hope that this trespassing becomes a norm soon and there are no patriarchs to surprise.