We are one woman, you cry and I hear you.
We are one woman, you hurt and I hurt too.
We are one woman, your hopes are mine,
We shall shine…..
The song above was launched on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013 for the UN Women, the global champion for women and girls worldwide. It inspires listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality.
For years now, the word ’empowerment’ has been synonymous with ‘International women’s day the world over which signifies gender equality, economic freedom etc. But, of what use is empowerment without safety? What will we do with money and education, if we are not physically and emotionally secure in our society? Has it actually made a difference in their lives, bringing an end to their struggles?
Everyday, while going through the newspapers we come to know of incidents involving women. The 2012 Delhi gang rape case involved a rape and fatal assault that occurred on 16 December. The incident was widely condemned, both in India and abroad. The outpouring of anger and grief following the rape and murder gave rise to hopes for change in India. Subsequently, several new laws were passed, and six new fast-track courts were created to hear rape cases. The government responded with the passing of several new sexual assault laws, but the truth is that in India, the woman has always been a second grade citizen, no matter what its leaders have said or done. The rudimentary question however remains; do the women of this country feel a little more secure after this fast track delivery of punishment to the culprits? What I feel is that punishing the criminal alone is not enough; it can only end the perpetrator of the crime not crime itself. The banned documentary “India’s Daughter” has again sparked off debates…
Gender discrimination is the least of worries for women in India, known otherwise as the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women. Other instances of violence against women has an astonishing and grim variety to it – with acid throwing, domestic violence stemming out of dowry, rape, harassment and an assortment of others. All forms of violence against women, physical and psychological whether at domestic or societal levels, including those arising from customs, traditions or accepted practices should be dealt with effectively. At least 125 countries have specific laws that penalize domestic violence, yet 603 million women live in countries where it is not considered a crime. Media should be used to portray images consistent with human dignity of girls and women. In the simplest of words, woman empowerment is basically the creation of an environment where women can make independent decisions on their personal development as well as shine as equals in society. The empowerment of women begins with a guarantee of their health and safety. Safety doesn’t curtail safety only at the workplace but at home, on the streets, while commuting, that is almost everywhere.
Women want to be treated as equals so much so that if a woman rises to the top of her field it should be a commonplace occurrence. She shouldn’t be a sore sight for the males in her field. To truly understand what women empowerment is, there needs to be a drastic change in the mind-set of the people of the country. Not just the women themselves, but the men have to wake up to a world that is moving towards equity. It is better that this is embraced earlier rather than later, for our own good. We’ve tried to empower women to be financially independent and to be able to assert their rights, but there has been no attempt to educate their families about the same. It is said that laws of nature should not be tampered with; if we go on imposing our own mindset on nature then we have to face its fury. We are born in this country as equal individuals with equal rights, so why do we have to remind the privileged about the rights of women? So we’re seeing an increase in domestic violence. In fact, even in cities we find that highly educated women find themselves facing dowry issues. We think of women’s liberation and empowerment, but we don’t spare a thought for the family as a whole. They have to be educated about it, made aware of the status of a woman in society. There can be compulsory moral lectures to students in schools and colleges; it has to be tackled at the grassroots level.
It’s no surprise then that the focus has shifted from empowerment to safety. From discussing ways to dealing with harassment at the workplace and highlighting laws that are in favour of women to talking about ways to make women feel safer on the streets— it’s back to the basics. From the time of Rani Lakshmi Bai, women across cultures and countries have tried to empower themselves. This is an ongoing battle and must be fought with the same vigour, while ensuring safety.
We have to ensure a conducive environment through positive economic and social policies for the women to enable them to realize their full potential. Women’s equality in power sharing and active participation in decision making, including decision making in political processes at all levels will ensure the achievement of the goals of empowerment. But the crimes against women are directly against the process of women empowerment in India. Empowerment is still in its nascent stages in India. The major gainers are from the urban class, most of the rural women still are the sufferers.
I would like to quote a few lines from Rabindranath Tagore, “Father let my country awake…”Yes, I too would love to see my fellow women moving about with their heads held high with dignity in a country where there is gender equality and equal opportunities for all because they too are part of the national development. I have hopes in the youth of our country….they should be able to bring about a change…but the radical truth is that the laws have to change and be enforced with immediate effect. Looking forward to a bright and shining India where all its females can move free with no issues of safety!
We have a long way to go, but we will get there someday. We shall overcome.