Hautetalk: Why Celebrating Women’s Day In India Feels Like A Sham

With International Women’s Day around the corner, most of my female friends have already started making plans for March 8, the day the entire world celebrates women and womanhood. And I think to myself, why bother celebrating women when clearly they are not given their rights and freedoms nor are they respected. In fact, a report suggested that more than 2.4 million women around the world are not given an equal economic opportunity and around 178 countries worldwide have so many various legal hurdles that prevent these women from fully ever participating in the economy. And trust me these are not the only barriers. Let’s just take a closer look at our own homes. Should women in India even celebrate Women’s Day? Because to me, Indians celebrating women seems like a sham. How can it not be when every other day we hear news about how some women are abused, tortured, killed, raped, harassed, or prohibited from getting basic education because of their clothes?

The funny thing is that I don’t even have to look too far in the past to give you instances. Let’s talk about the ongoing hijab row controversy. There are literally college-going girl students who are fighting with the colleges, the government, and the court for their basic rights – to wear whatever and wherever they want. We as a society have denied these women the right to express their faith, beliefs. We deny them the right to choose and then on such specific days like Women’s Day, we celebrate them? Disgusting!

Also Read: Hijab Row: Cops Hit Muslim Women Over Protest In UP. Lawyer Asks Court, “What About Ghoongat, Turban, Cross?”

In Indian society, there are days where we worship our women and celebrate them. But on other days, we abuse and troll them? On Women’s Day, everyone talks about how it is important to safeguard the rights and safety of women, and then the next day we hear cases of domestic violence, rape, and murder. In fact, recently in Kangana Ranaut’s reality show, Lock Upp, two female public figures – Nisha Rawal and Poonam Pandey – came out and spoke about how they were victims of domestic abuse. These are well-educated, financially independent women who are in the public eye, and even they have horror stories because oppression of women transcends all strata of society. If these influential women couldn’t do anything, what are the chances of common women from marginalised communities escaping this?

Why just public figures? Let’s talk about the civil servants. In recent times, a lot of women from the police department, airforce, army, etc. have come out and spoken about how they were raped and molested by their seniors. These are the people that have the duty to keep the common people safe, but they can’t even keep the women in the force safe. How do they expect the police to protect women when their own women aren’t safe? Give me one good reason as to why we should celebrate Women’s Day in India?

Also Read: Rajasthan Minister Says Roads Should Be Made Like Katrina Kaif’s Cheeks. And Shouldn’t Speeches Be Without Sexism, Sir?

Let me paint you another picture, what about when politicians and people online troll, slander, and compare women to nasty things? Where is your spirit of Women’s Day gone when you hear or see politicians make statements that a road should be as smooth as Katrina Kaif’s cheek? And the most infuriating thing about it all is that these same politicians then talk about the rights of women on specific women-centric days. In Ashneer Grover’s words ‘yeh sab doglapan hai’.

And it is not just these politicians, even the very high and mighty people of the internet who show this ‘doglapan’. Take the instance of the time when a journalist, Rana Ayyub, gave her opinion and voiced her thoughts, what did the people online do? They sent her rape threats, sent her death threats, and even made vulgar comments. The people online couldn’t tolerate the fact that a woman has an opinion/thought of her own. How dare she? Right? And if these threats don’t work, then we can always auction them off online using their images without their consent. Do Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai apps ring a bell? Then on March 8, these will be the same people who will talk about how things in the country should change for the betterment and empowerment of women on Women’s Day. Honestly, choose a side people for f**k’s sake!

For a second, forget everything and take a look inside your own home. Do you really think that the women you celebrate on Women’s Day – your mother, wife, daughter, sister, etc. are living in a gender-equal environment? I think not. They are the ones called out to serve food, water, and look after the family when you’re out there. And it is not just about those who stay at home, even the ones who work have to come back or hear taunts about their work when they make a slight mistake. Something a man can hardly ever relate to. In fact, for most women in India, working or not working after or before marriage is not an option – it is the people and the situation around them that decide for them. Forget work, even the basic right to education is not provided to a lot of women in India. How is this fair in any way?

Also Read: ‘Lock Upp’ Contestant Poonam Pandey Reveals Horrific Details Of Abuse Inflicted Upon Her By Estranged Husband Sam Bombay

I really think it is time to remove those rose coloured glasses and see the country as it is. For that one day of Women’s Day, the entire country pretends as though nothing is wrong, they pretend to respect women, to take care of them, worry about them, and in fact, even give them a choice to do whatever they want (of course, as per the etiquettes set by society for women). And then the very next day we go back to oppressing them, their needs, their voices. We go back to torturing them, slut shaming them, body-shaming them, abusing them, raping them, killing them, suppressing their voices, and in the end burying them so deep in the ground that they can’t ever rise back up. 

Yes, I’m angry, overwhelmed, hurt, and hateful. Don’t I get to be? After everything I see happening around me and everything that I face personally as well? It is frustrating to know that only because I’m a woman I can’t ask questions, I have to follow certain etiquettes that are made just for me, I have to carry the izzat of my family in my virginity, and if I do anything wrong, the society won’t let me even breathe the air that it has so considerately allowed me to for so many years. We celebrate Women’s Day, Daughter’s Day, Mother’s Day, and other women-centric days forgetting, very conveniently, that every other day a woman is abused/molested/tortured, every other day a daughter is raped and killed, every other day a mother faces domestic violence at the hands of her in-laws and husband. And every day, a woman’s voice is again suppressed when she speaks about the injustice, her rights, her freedom, or simply voices out her opinion. In fact, would I be wrong to say that even on Women’s Day, it’s not like the crimes and injustices against women will come to standstill? The news reports over the years say otherwise. 

Also Read: Hautetalk: Marriage Cannot Take Away A Woman’s Right To Say ‘No’. Criminalising Marital Rape Is The Need Of The Hour

It’s been 75 years of our independence, but the women of our country are still in shackles that they are struggling to break free from. I’m not going to take away from the fact that society has changed in the last seven decades, but ask yourself if that change has been enough. Ask yourself if the condition of your mother, daughter, sister, girlfriend or any other woman in your life has changed for the better. It is only when you think about it and remove those rose-tinted glasses, will you see that most of them are a complete hoax. 

So, yes, maybe I look at the Women’s Day celebration in India with a cynical outlook. But guess what? I’m a woman and I’m not falling for these pretentious tricks of society just to be pushed back into the cruel reality on the very next day. If you truly want to celebrate women and womanhood, then learn to respect them and that will only happen when we start to stop seeing women as abla naari or the weaker half. And when you will do that, then maybe that day you will understand what it means to celebrate women and their womanhood. And trust me, I’ll be waiting because I believe that we can reach that place as a society if we try that is.

In Pakistan, The Aurat March On Women’s Day Was Successful. But A Man Abused A Woman On Live TV, So Equality Is Still A Dream

Ritu Sanghvi

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