By Artika Raj:
While party poopers gonna be a poopin’, we do believe that the beginning of every new year brings with it the hope that this year is going to be different! Whether it be the resolution to finally start eating healthy, start that Dear Diary or just about anything – something about the change in the calendar year marks a triumphant beginning for most of us. In that spirit, 2016 looks promising to us especially because 2015 gave us some pretty big moments that, in their after-effects, should make for an exciting 2016.
How does sharing your opinion, agreeable or not, over a free space like the internet even begin to count as a criminal offence is beyond most people’s logic. But while the State saw otherwise, the SC put things right by removing this ‘draconian’ provision from law books.
For far too long, just unbelievably far too long, women officers in the IAF were restricted from joining as fighter pilots because they were thought to be ‘physically not suited’ for flying fighters and the idea of what would happen to them as POW seemed too horrifying. Of course this restriction made no such sympathetic overtures to the men, whose ‘honour’ needs no ‘protection’. Fortunately, the light of day shone upon minds and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha declared that the IAF will now recruit women as fighter pilots! When the machine doesn’t discriminate over who’s flying it, then?
Boo ya! Finally, the tide has begun to turn with first dents being made in the binary (and absolutely ridiculous) definition of ‘gender’ as only male and female. Firebrand activist Akkai Padmashali inaugurated Kerala’s pioneer policy that looks at rights of trans people, a welcome first, and later called out the central government for refusing to decriminalize homosexuality from YKA’s very own platform, CONVERGE. With the SC ruling recognizing the rights of trans individuals, their increasing participation and inclusion in the mainstream suggests a step forward. Manabi Bandhopadhyay became West Bengal’s first transgender college principal while Tamil Nadu saw its first transgender police officer in Prithika Yashini.
While still not completely there, child mortality rates (deaths under the age of 5) saw a significant reduction from 12.7 million per year in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015. This was the first year the figure went below the 6 million mark. With more state forces slowly working towards achieving this MDG, 2016 should bring much better results. Even for mothers, especially working mothers, the government brought relief by making a 26-week maternity leave the norm across private companies and later also mandated that companies have creches to support them better. Not to be left behind, the SC had earlier in the year made it lawful for unwed mothers to be legal guardians of their children, something that was previously caught in a mess of complications.
With these steps to take care of the mother and child, at least, the future has a chance at a healthier report card!
2015 was a powerful year for women as they decided to take matters in their own hands and fight back the patriarchy that dogs them at each and every step. From a movement like Pinjra Tod that united women, college-going and otherwise, against discriminatory hostel timings that seek to lock women up while men have all the freedom, to something like #HappyToBleed, taboos got a major whiplashing in2015. Nikita Azad penned an open letter on Youth Ki Awaaz to the keepers of the Sabrimala temple, taking them to task over saying a ‘purity-checking machine’ would have to be invented in the future for women before they are allowed temple entry. Menstruation, a normal bodily function for anyone with the requisite set of organs has for far too long been treated as ‘impure’ and something that a woman should be ashamed of. But no more.
In 2016, women are going to refuse to be tied up in those shackles for sure!
The energy of young people in this country is the fire that it is powered on, and anyone who thinks they can tame it for their personal interests is just plain wrong. Student protests in India saw an unprecedented rise in 2015, right from the #Hokokolorb movement in Kolkata, to the Occupy UGC movement in Delhi, to the FTII agitation in Pune. No part of the country remained untouched by students raising their voice against unfair treatment, or the jeopardizing of their careers by an irresponsible institution.
Young minds that are tomorrow’s leaders not just learnt the lessons in their classrooms, but taught quite a few significant ones to the rest of the country – ‘Where the mind is without fear…’
Tradition, custom and what ‘she cannot do’ are the obstacles thrown a woman’s way when she steps out of the house. And in the Uttar Pradesh heartland, these can take an especially ugly turn. But undeterred by social taboos, threats of violence and even family pressure, around a 1000 women stood up as candidates in the local Panchayat elections, with 400 of them going on to bag seats! While the Parliament still remains stuck at whether to implement 33.5% reservation for women, guess the message of these women to those in power is clear. Diversity of representation in positions of power is an absolute necessity and these women have shown that inroads are being made into this at every level.
In the worst rains to be seen in a 100 years, it was just sheer humanity that saved the lives of hundreds in Chennai towards the end of 2015. As large parts of the city remained submerged for days, people opened their homes to take in others, cooked and distributed meals to the needy round the clock, those on social media put updates about available help from each and every corner while restaurants, malls, and theaters kept their gates open to take in anyone who needed a place to stay. #ChennaiRains became the mantra of rescue and the best of human spirit was on showcase at this time. Faith restored!
While these might just be 8 of the most popular examples from 2015 that show how change is well on its way, equally commendable are the little-talked-about stories of people helping each other on an everyday basis, planting a tree, rescuing a puppy and many such that are worthy of our praise and make us hopeful for an even better 2016.
Do you agree that 2016 mein #HawaBadlegi? Tweet to me at @artikaraj.