Every year International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8. In India, people felicitate women who have brought laurels for the country. Personally, I feel Women’s Day should be celebrated every day for at least three or four years. The reason: All of us are aware about crimes against women, how women who work away from home feel insecure, and how some male rogues behave with them on roads, in office and even in homes. We have to think ways of providing safety and respect to our women every day, every moment. Celebrating women for a day will not suffice.
On one hand, our ancient scripts and cultural ethos praise women, but the fact is, women are disrespected, harassed and tortured in real life. Our ancient scripture, Manu Smriti says, “Gods reside where women are worshipped, and where women are not respected, even the fruits of good work get frittered away”.
In India, there is one incident of domestic violence reported every minute. Every 16 minutes, a woman is raped in India. There is one gangrape case every hour. We cannot imagine what our mothers and daughters have to go through every day.
When a woman goes out to her workplace away from home, she has to be on her guard, whether walking on road, or while travelling in Metro or bus or train, and when she reaches her workplace, she has to be on the lookout for predators. They could be lurking anywhere, ready to pounce.
With the coming of latest technology, women have to be on guard even while using washrooms in offices and rented houses, and in change rooms at departmental stores. Nobody is sure when a predator will morph a woman’s photograph in the nude and post them on social media.
Senior police officers say, most of the crimes against women are committed by those who are either close relatives or are known to the victims. But this issue is not confined to crimes alone. In offices, homes and public places, women face disrespect and harassment. In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday night, our reporters talked to women working as attendants at petrol pumps, women working in the Army, Air Force and Police, and nurses who toil day and night in hospitals.
Several women employees said men make sexist remarks loaded with double entendre, which they chose to ignore. Think of the mental agony women go through when they have to listen to obscene remarks and yet carry on with their work, because they have to take care of their families.
Our reporters spoke to women security staff, who come from small towns to work in the metros. Many of them spoke how they have to listen to obscene and sexist remarks from men. Some of the male customers even go to the extent of asking these women security guards to frisk them physically.
Imagine, a woman leaves her home in fear, looks out for incidents of harassment either on the roads or in offices, which they have to face day in and day out. Think of the mental agony they have to go through. Women working in police have no fixed hours of duty, they return home late, and in some case, we have seen visuals of women constables bringing their kids to police stations, since they do not have anybody to look after the children.
Millions of our nurses and doctors are frontline health workers engaged in fighting Covid-19 for the last one year. When we read stories about our valiant women workforce bringing laurels in the armed forces, police and healthcare, we feel proud, but this pride gives away to sadness when we read stories about how women are subjected to domestic violence because of dowry and other issues, they are raped by miscreants and harassed by louts at every available opportunity.
Millions of such women never complain. A woman, whether a housewife or a working professional, has to look after her family too. We may harp on the need for gender equality but the fact remains that women have to do their house chores even if they work outside in offices. They have dual responsibilities, but they always fail to get equal respect compared to men.
What is the way out? I believe all of us should start giving respect to women, and this should begin from our homes, in our neighbourhoods, and in our localities. We must teach our young ones how to respect girls and women. If they ever harass girls or women, they must be given punishment. If we watch hooligans harassing women passengers inside buses and trains, we should not remain silent spectators, and must intervene. Tomorrow it could be any woman member from your family.
We feel pride when we hear stories about women, who after getting education have attained economic freedom. This is their real power, their ‘shakti’. These women are acquiring this ‘shakti’ of their own. But it is society which tries to subjugate them, instil fear in their minds.
It is now time that voices must come out from temples, mosques, churches and gurdwaras in favour of women, and the enemies of society must be warned that their acts of violence against women will never be tolerated. They will have to face social boycott. Only then will we feel ourselves proud when we celebrate Women’s Day.
We will have to renew our vow to accord respect to women every day, in other words, we must celebrate Women’s Day daily, at least for the next three to four years, to create social awareness and educate people.
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