I know you’ll think I’m the perennial damp squib but I always get irritated in March. Make that 8 March. Countries such as India shouldn’t celebrate International Women’s Day. We haven’t yet earned the right.
It’s not like we celebrate the day in any significant manner anyway.
All the Pink Pimps predictably launch some new packaging, an online game or a discount that they believe will liberate Indian women.
Bikini basic: Got your attention, didn’t I?
That day every newspaper and television channel carries at least one story of a braveheart who has survived despite India. Like the 53-year-old Dalit woman who was buried alive by her father when she was only 16 days old. Someone rescued her and she now fights female infanticide. Or the policewoman whose station in a red light district is the winner among the capital’s 182 police stations. Or the 70-year-old sharpshooter with a Rs85,000 gun (this one I quite enjoyed, I must admit).
Some Big Bindi brandishing MP inevitably uses the occasion to regurgitate the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill. One report quoted politician Sharad Yadav as saying: “I fully support reservation for women. But it should not be only for women from the creamy layer.”
It’s also the day random strangers who usually abuse me on Twitter take a timeout to wish me Happy Women’s Day. And it’s around this time that I’m encouraged to write my annual update on Indian men (the update reads the same every year).
Earlier this week The Times of India reported the findings of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey. One in four Indian men commit sexual violence in their lives, TOI said. More than 65% of these men believed women should tolerate domestic violence “to keep the family together”. Since it’s March, the newspaper illustrated this story not with an image of a woman in a bikini but with that of a man holding a placard that read: “Are not our mothers and sister (sic) women?”
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Even if you’re that rare educated urban Indian woman (creamy layer, in Yadav’s lingo) who hasn’t encountered sexual or domestic violence, chances are you are familiar with the concept of tolerance. Aside: I’m convinced the husband was a Croatian in his last life—the men there topped the gender-equitable men scale in the survey (our Indian boys came last, of course).
The morning after, we go back to reporting and reading about women who don’t survive this country. Each of these stories is just another reason not to celebrate International Women’s Day.
On the centenary of this glorious celebration of feminine power, for example, a university student was shot dead by a stalker on a busy bridge. A 31-year-old was strangled in what may be a dowry death (when it’s a Congress politician’s son’s wedding, the helicopter is a gift, not dowry). A mother threw her two children (Gaurav, 6, and Mayanka, 3) off the 19th floor of a building, then jumped herself. A 79-year-old lady was strangled with the chord of a household grinder.
In March we are overloaded with gender statistics. About how we are systematically brutalized; about teenage marriages and motherhood; about infanticide, dowry, rape; about inequalities in the way we are educated, nourished and treated at the workplace. Equal pay for equal work? That’s not a concept that’s reached our shores yet.
This week’s cover story is about an educated, free-spirited, working woman who didn’t worry too much about what India thought of her. Last month, she was murdered, and her body was stuffed in an airbag and dumped at a railway station. That’s why I say, hold off on the celebrations until we can improve our track record.
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