The Central government has made its priorities clear. While pandering to the corporates, it has accelerated the State’s withdrawal from the social sector, also characterized by a marked cut in the allocation for the Department of Women and Child Development. There has been a reported shortfall of Rs.109 billion in the ICDS programme. In the budget allocations under ICDS and Midday Meal Scheme were severely cut. 7067 operational projects of ICDS and 13.42 lakh Anganwadi centres are facing closure now. The Midday Meal scheme is also under threat with Central allocation slashed from Rs 13,000 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9,000 crore this fiscal year. Anganwadi workers, Midday Meal cooks and Mahila Samakhya workers, mostly women, are facing the threat of getting thrown out. Allocation for the girl child’s education was actually reduced by 8.3%. Very recently the Centre has announced that it will slash its share of funding from 75 to 60 per cent in key social schemes, including Midday Meal, housing for the poor and the National Health Mission – a decision which will severely impact women’s access to empowerment and well-being. Women’s workforce participation in India is abysmally low with even countries like Somalia and Bahrain faring better. Female employment is falling. Wage discrimination between men and women workers in several sectors is increasing. Gender discrimination has been reported in worsening conditions of work, lack of access to credit and social security. The proposed ‘reforms’ in the labour laws look set to further jeopardize the condition of millions of women workers, especially in the unorganized sector.
Sexual violence against women, children and sexual minorities has assumed the proportions of an epidemic. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, crimes against women have increased by 7.1 per cent since 2010. Every 20 minutes in India a woman is raped. Very few cases are actually reported and the conviction rate is even lower. Even today, a rapist is often acquitted in a court of law if he deigns to marry the survivor, a phenomenon indicative of the supreme disregard of the State to the question of a woman’s dignity. Ultra-rightist ideologues and politicians continue to blame women’s assertion and choice for sexual assaults and rape. Military and para-military forces stationed in states deemed ‘disturbed areas’ have become notorious for inflicting untold sexual atrocities on women. In Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has become a tool for torturing, raping and killing countless women in these states. In places like Chhattisgarh and Junglemahal in West Bengal, Dalit and tribal women in particular face the brunt of physical and sexual assault at the hands of the armed forces. The custodial torture of women like Soni Sori and Kawasi Hidme – and many others like them – in Chhattisgarh is a ruthless reflection of the state of affairs. The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 attempts to throttle all voices of dissent, facilitating corporate loot of the mineral-rich state and eviction of the original inhabitants of the land and forests. The Indian State, rather than combat patriarchy, actively perpetuates it by brutalizing women as a part of its war against the people.
However, despite all efforts to push women back to the home, despite all efforts to impose restrictions on them, despite all efforts to keep them in patriarchal servitude, women are fighting back with unprecedented intensity. The recent struggle of the women tea plantation workers of Munnar, Kerala, has indeed created history. All over country, women are breaking barriers, challenging patriarchy and revolting against State-sponsored violence and discrimination. So much so, that the women’s question has today become an agenda that no political party can afford to ignore.
It is at such a critical juncture that the 3rd All India Conference of the All India Revolutionary Women’s Organisation will be held at Raipur, Chhattisgarh on 19-20 December, 2015. Committed to its goal of women’s emancipation and the annihilation of patriarchy since its birth in 2010, AIRWO calls upon all women to join the struggle for liberation
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