For millions of women in India, the working day commonly begins at 4.30 or 5.00 am and ends sixteen hours later, as they struggle to meet the most basic needs of their families – for food, water, clothes, health care and a home. The reason for this ‘hundred-hour week’ is that most women do two jobs – in the home and outside of the home. It can be in the agriculture sector and private industry.
In the popular imagination, the women of India look after the house and raise the children whilst the men go out for bread and butter. But the truth is something else. In India, women do more than half of the subcontinent’s agriculture work. It is usually thought that it is the man who is responsible for farm work, assisted by women, but in most cases now it’s the women who do the farm work, assisted by the men.
A few weeks ago a minor girl got raped in J &K, another in Bihar, Assam, and Delhi. Last week a couple got beaten thrashed by the mob just outside of the Kolkata airport just because people thought they were standing to close to each other. That’s quite normal in our country. Isn’t it? Every day we read news about rapes across India. We talk about it for a day or two max and then things are back to normal. India is a country of 1.3 billion people out of which 49% are women. So half of our population are females. And that’s how a society works. On an average 20000 rapes took place in India in a year. My heart bleeds when I read about rapes in newspapers. As a man, it’s our responsibility to make sure women should feel safe around us. It’s our collective responsibility to make sure that nobody misbehaves with them in market, train or buses.
Most of the Indians know very well how tough is the life of a woman in the world’s biggest democracy. Everybody knows it and few are making money out of it. The rivalry between older and younger women is so common in joint family households that it has spawned an entire sub-genre of “saas-bahu” soap operas about wives and mothers-in-law. They are among the most popular program on Indian television. We had a woman president, we’ve had a woman Prime Minister. Yet in 2012, one of the greatest tragedies in our country is that women are on their own when it comes to their own safety.
Women have proved that they can beat men in any sector. Be it sports, arts, science, politics, Tech or for that matter anywhere, she has stood at par with what a man could do. Yet, she still fights for equality. No matter what, the old thoughts and upbringing culture still lay cluttered in the minds of men that women should not be above men, but below them. It is sad to understand that women are the better halves of the society, yet they are the ones who face the maximum tortures in many ways in their lives. Time has changed, yet attitude towards women have never been changed.
Even today, leave alone villages where people are uneducated, the educated society or who claims to be in the high-class society, opts for abortions of girl child! The only reason they state is “It is expensive to bring up a girl child.” How ridiculous? The system has to be changed right from the roots.
When a girl child is born, the first thought is, the parent has to make dowry to get her married off. Aren’t men and their families ashamed to ask for dowries even today? Do they survive on the money from the girl’s house?
One thing is crystal clear: 91 years after Gandhi urged Indian men to treat their women with respect, the lesson has yet to be learned. Everything is so tough for women in India. People kill girls even before birth, female foeticide still a common problem in our Country n 21st century. Girls have limited freedom in almost everything. Education, career, clothes, parties, night out with friends, school-college tours and almost at every place. Why?
If I look around my neighbourhood I can find 100s of the example where families didn’t allow their girls to go to another city for decent education even though those girls are one of the brightest I have encountered in my life. Girls had proved that whether its sports, education, army, science-tech or any field, they are nowhere less than the boys. But still no major change in the mentality of the people. There is nothing inevitable about violence against women, here or anywhere. Struggle by courageous women and their allies has already had an impact. But the worst thing we can do is allow our horror at what happened on that Delhi bus to make us complacent
It’s not about Hindu or Muslim. It’s not about BJP or Congress. It’s not about Right or Left. It’s about making sure women get what they deserve. Respect, Freedom, rights, and equality in every sector of the life. More women need to come in front to fight for their rights.
But although the voices of women must be heard above all else, men must speak out too. It’s really important that we show solidarity with women, educate each other and challenge prejudice in our ranks. Men have a crucial role to play, too. Parents need to teach their kids to respect women at very early age. Our education system needs many changes, at least when it comes to its curriculum. We as a society need to give the freedom to our girls.