The International Women’s Day, as the name implies, is all about celebrating womanhood. It seeks to celebrate women’s achievements, while also acting as a catalyst for change when it comes to gender equality.
The day is celebrated with full zeal and enthusiasm across the globe. It is marked by talks, performances, rallies and marches. As the calendar page turns to March 8, it’s time for everyone to chime in on to the pro-woman conversation. But amongst all these celebrations and jubilation, one question arises in every woman’s mind: will the International Women’s Day ever be successful in granting them the right to equality, for which they have been struggling since ages? Or has it lost its significance in the midst of rampant commercialisation?
The major purpose of the International Women’s Day was to achieve gender equality for women – and this has not yet been realised. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, it will take an estimated 217 years to close the gender parity gap. Gender biases and prejudices against women are still prevalent in the society which is ultimately gobbling up its own morality.
As renowned feminist sociologist Simon De Beauvoir puts it, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Gender is not ‘biologically fixed’, rather, it is ‘socially constructed’. Blatant discriminatory practices against women start as soon as they enter this ruthless world. India’s sex ratio, among children aged 0-6 years, is alarming. The ratio has declined from 976 females (for every 1000 males) in 1961 to around 919 at present. According to a recent report by The Hindu, in all, 17 of 21 large Indian states saw a drop in the sex ratio, with Gujarat performing the worst, dropping 53 points.
Every national census has documented a decline in the ratio, signalling a ubiquitous trend. And the cause of it essentially lies in the tradition of the preference for a son. Sons are preferred because they are said to continue the ‘family line’, and allegedly have a higher wage-earning capacity.
There is a saying in India: “Raising a daughter is like watering your neighbor’s garden.” Another one goes like “It is better to have a thousand sons than one daughter.” Girls are often considered to be an economic burden because of the dowry system. After marriage, they typically become members of the husband’s family, often ceasing to take responsibility of their own parents in the process. Preference for a son also often manifests prenatally (through sex determination and sex-selective abortion) and postnatally (through the neglect and abandonment of the girl child). This practice sheds light on the horrifying system of patriarchy, which portrays men as the primary authoritarian figures, and women as ‘objects’ which are to be violated and oppressed by the men.
Gender lines are drawn early, and women continue to be ‘excluded’ throughout their adulthood. The plight of women remains unchanged – even after becoming self- dependent in many cases. They suffer either in the form of unequal pay or the allegations of sexual misconduct rippling through the industries. The gender pay gap still exists even in one of the most developed countries like the UK, where women earn up to 18% less than men. In January 2018, Ladbrokes, EasyJet and Virgin Money revealed pay gaps of over 15% in favour of men. The perverted treatment of women professionals in the workplaces is really astonishing, despite the existing laws that are supposed to protect them against unequal hiring practices, policies and pay.
As per a report by The Telegraph, “The vocal, headline-grabbing fight for women’s rights has only increased in 2018, with female actresses donating money and wearing black at awards ceremonies in support of #TimesUp and BBC journalist Carrie Gracie publicly resigning as China editor over unequal pay.” A year ago, in 2017, women effectively worked ‘for free’ for 51 days of the year because of the gender pay gap. Women have actively revolted against this derogatory practice, and have often succeeded. But the bad predicament of women is not just limited to this.
According to a report on Scroll, “Crimes against women have more than doubled over the past 10 years, according to latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau. As many as 2.24 million crimes against women were reported over the past decade: 26 crimes against women are reported every hour, or one complaint every two minutes, reveals an IndiaSpend analysis based on the last decade’s data.” According to other reports, ‘Cruelty by husband or his relatives’ was the most-reported crime against women. Rape accounted for 11% of all crimes against women.
“I feel that due to media pressure on certain brutally violent incidents, there is greater awareness, and women are coming forward to report crimes,” Flavia Agnes, a women’s rights lawyer and co-founder of Majlis, a non-profit organization that provides legal services to women and children, told IndiaSpend.
Dealing with such issues is a tough task and a lonely battle for the sufferer. We need a provision in the law so that it provides support for those who have faced such difficulties.
On one hand, social networking sites have been bombarded with ‘Happy Women’s Day’ messages. But, on the other hand, the biggest question still remains unanswered, “Is one day enough to celebrate womanhood?”
After centuries of being sidelined and undermined, I don’t think that one day dedicated to us in an ocean of 365 days is a big deal.
Women, who are considered to be the epitome of sacrifice and dignity, have to succumb to this male-dominated society at every stage of their lives. This is something that’s really disastrous – and thus, it demands immediate action. This Women’s Day, let’s not just pamper women with spa packages. Instead, let’s give them the honour and the applause they truly deserve.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.