IN THE WAKE of rising atrocities against women all across the country, the constant denial of equal rights and the shameful reluctance of the state to take even the smallest step to uplift the condition of women and give them even a semblance of dignity and social equality, the All India Revolutionary Women’s Organisation has called for a 3-month national campaign on three cardinal issues affecting the mass of women. The campaign, beginning on July 1, will address the issues of violence against women, equal rights for women and the disastrous effects of liquor on the lives of women.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the usual crimes committed against women consist of rape, incest, sexual harassment, importation of girls/trafficking, kidnapping and abduction, dowry-related murders and torture, domestic violence (physical, sexual, psychological and/or economic) and instigation to suicide. Violence against women comes in a multitude of forms and wreaks havoc on society. Women are not spared violence in either public or private life. From sexual harassment on the streets and at the workplace to being physically and mentally abused at home is the lot of women. In fact, violence affects the girl child even before she is born. Female foeticide is so rampant in the country that the last census shows that there has been an alarming decrease in the number of girls in the 0-6 age group. The child sex ratio has dropped steadily from 945 females per 1000 males in 1991 to 927 females in 2001 to 914 females in 2011. The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that up to 50 million girls and women are ‘missing’ from India’s population because of termination of the female foetus or high mortality of the girl child due to lack of proper care. According to the 2012 report on India drawn up by Human Rights Watch, “The 2011 census data revealed a further decline in India’s female/male sex ratio, pointing to the failure of laws aimed at reducing sex-selective abortions. A series of ‘honour’ killings and rapes rocked the country in 2011 but there has been no effective action to prevent and effectively prosecute such violence. The government has yet to improve health services for survivors of sexual assault but has taken steps to provide compensation for rape survivors.”
While violence against women takes many forms ranging from denial of the basic amenities of a civilized life to outright physical abuse, equal rights for women remains a concept confined merely to the statute book. Equal wages for equal work remains a distant dream. Female share of non-agricultural wage employment is only 17%. Participation of women in the workforce is only 13.9% in the urban sector and 29.9% in the rural sector. Women’s wage rates are, on an average only 75 % of men’s wage rates and constitute only 25% of the family income. In no Indian State do women and men earn equal wages in agriculture. Close to 245 million Indian women lack the basic capability to read and write. The female literacy rate is lower than the male literacy rate. The average nutritional intake of women is 1400 calories daily, while the necessary requirement is approximately 2200 calories. 92% of women in India suffer from gynaecological problems and 300 women die every day due to childbirth and pregnancy related causes. According to the UN Population Fund, India recorded 56,000 maternal deaths in 2010, perhaps an outcome of diminishing public health care system in India. A study by the International Center for Research on Women (2010) reveals that around 44.5% girls are married before 19 years of age. Property rights for women remain suspect. With the still dominant patriarchal conception on property rights along with man’s (as father, husband, son or brother) control over women’s labour time have grave implications. In spite of statutory laws, women’s access to land and property is affected by a mere change in marital status including marriage, divorce or death of the spouse with far-reaching repercussions in their sustenance and livelihood. Because of patriarchal inheritance customs and lack of law-enforcement in general, both productive resources and property such as household goods end up in the hands of men. Clearly, despite being granted equality by the law and the Constitution, women do not enjoy equal rights in any sphere including education, health, employment and property.
Both violence against women and denial of their rights are further intensified by the social evil of alcoholism that turns men into wife-beating beasts squandering the hard earned family income on liquor while the women and children in the family remain deprived of food, education, clothing and happiness.
Imperialist globalization, with its tools of development and progress, including some aspects of modern science and technology, free market and a militarised State, serves to intensify the existing violence and creates grotesque new forms against the already vulnerable women. The growing number of dowry murders, that are a direct outcome of increasing consumerism and devaluation of women; female foeticide that is fostered by new forms of reproductive technology; the total destruction of women’s livelihoods in the process of industrialising agriculture; the absolute exploitation of women’s skills and labour in sweatshops of the corporate ‘free’ market; and the blatant commoditization of women are just some cases of the growing myriad forms of violence against women. Violence in its various forms is getting accentuated under the New Economic Policy being pursued by the neo-colonial Indian State. Thus, the Indian State, far from being the protector and custodian of the rights of women, has become their greatest violator – both through commission of violence and through omission to stop or end violence. While on the one hand it is apparently granting more legal rights to women, on the other it is also creating conditions where women are being rendered more vulnerable and increasingly incapable of accessing statutory rights.
As the neo-colonization drive is intensified by the imperialist forces, the pauperization of the masses and the devastation of nature have reached unprecedented levels. The brunt of this de-humanization of society is suffered by women. It is in this context that AIRWO has launched a three-month campaign against all forms of attacks on women, for achieving equal rights in all fields and against the brutalizing consequences of liquor and intoxicants on society as a whole and women in particular. Through this all-India campaign, AIRWO wishes to raise the clarion call that in order to achieve true liberation for women, we must fight against the dual enemies of private property and patriarchy, and their greatest champion and protector, the neo-colonial Indian State. We appeal to all women as well as all progressive and democratic forces to come forward and make this campaign a great success.