T S Haokip
It is Women’s day today. Some might say, ‘Why is it that Mothers Day, Daughters Day and Women’s Day are celebrated grandiosely but not Son’s Day and Men’s Day? On a lighter note, well, there might be few who wonder why ‘wife day’ is not observed. The day, earlier known as International working women’s day is observed every year on the 8th of March to celebrate women and honour them with love and respect. Technically, almost all women are working women; the mothers, home makers and the sisters, etc. The conventional assumption of working women being only those who work in work-places other than home is now an outdated belief.
Women from the North-Eastern part of India enjoyed special privilege, which many societies can learn and replicate. If gender equality in Manipur is highlighted by women empowerment in the form of the flourishing existence of powerful women organisation in the valley, it is the prevalence of unmatched affection and respect towards women among the Hill tribes of various states that makes Women not just equal to men but even more special. The unique tradition of, not men but women inheriting family-properties in the state of Meghalaya is a classic example of a tribal society with empowered women, which has been a subject of profound interests to many near and far.
India has come a long way from the days of ‘Sati’ and ‘dowry’. Our freedom struggle was not without women altogether; Rani of Jhansi’s heroics are widely celebrated till today. Women are now treated equivalent to men in all fields including the Army; thanks to the recent Supreme court ruling which upheld women’s participation in combat roles. Reservation for women in Panchayati Raj existed decades ago. In fact, there is a state in the country which reserved seats for Women in the state legislature the highest policy making body in the state. Several schemes like Sukanya Samridhi are implemented to benefit girl childs of the country to fill the glaring gender gap. Stringent laws have been formulated to fight sexual and domestic violence against Women.
We have reasons to believe that we’ve done almost everything for gender equality and women empowerment. But are those enough? Do women today really feel safe, let alone empowered? Domestic violence against women does not cease; rapes and sexual assaults continue to happen. Dowry cases are not completely history. We are well aware how the parents of Nirbhaya, the innocent women who made a mistake by believing the National Capital to be safe place for women, are waiting years for the long delayed justice to be delivered. How can we erase from our memories victims of crime against women who lost not just their lives but that of their parents too?
Many have endeavoured to find a strategy that will herald in all round improvement towards women empowerment. The importance of the idea of representation seems to supersede the other desideratum. Some people have thus mooted the idea of 50 % reservation for women in legislation ( Panchayati Raj, State Assembly and Parliament) and jobs (private and public) to ensure equality. While the idea brings equality in representation in its literal sense, the required efforts of respect and understanding which is non-quantifiable but quintessential for lasting empowerment will be missing. Without a sense of respect and acceptance-that women are no inferior species but our equals, reservation of 50% of everything, which will likely benefits 50% women will still leave half of the women from the scheme of things and therefore render them disempowered.
While talks on Women and their issues have long been a topic, many women have spent their time on, we – the men, have tremendous roles to ensure its success. Gender equality and Women empowerment are not just about providing a workplace for women outside the kitchen, but by acknowledging the fact that kitchen is not inferior to any corporate office in the world. It is not only about giving them voice in legislative bodies but allowing them to have a say in the home too. Women safety is not just about making several laws but by imparting lessons to our sons and fellow men about respect for women. Last but not the least, Women’s day should not be a day for only the women to celebrate; rather it has to be a day for men of all ages to acknowledge and respect women for being our wonderful, powerful and beautiful equals.
( The writer is author of the book, HILLY DREAMS)