Friday, March 9, 2007

Happy Women's Day , Sir !

Happy Women’s Day, sir, I heard a young girl greet some one yesterday. It reminded me of course that it was the International Women’s Day, March 8th. Also that it was now an object of greeting- much like Happy Holi or Happy Valentine’s Day or Happy New Year. How easy it is to kill days and occasions by reducing them to occasions for exchanging greetings or sending cards. We wish a few people on the streets and in the neighbourhood and our job is done , our consciences are at peace for the next 365 days, till the day rolls in again and by when our fertile minds would have worked out some thing more innovative to dull and anesthetize our consciences.

Not that there are no deeper issues to deal with if we scratch the surface. There are reports which suggest that nearly half of India’s women have never heard of AIDS, let alone worry about taking precautions to protect themselves. Even as epidemics like HIV are getting feminised, another tendency that has come to light in places like Uttar Pradesh is the disturbing 'masculinisation' of the sex ratio. That this has spread to states like Uttar Pradesh is a deviation from the generally accepted norm that sex selective abortion is a matter of concern to the richer states like Punjab, Haryana and others is a worrying trend.

I may along with most other men mumble the usual platitudes about women’s’ empowerment, but I must admit I still have a long way to go. After all I can curse and rave and rant about patriarchy and patriarchal systems that are oppressive in my writing and public posturing, but how to negate the fact that most or perhaps even all men have this very same patriarchal attitude ingrained into their DNA , from their earliest childhood by the manner of their socialization and cultural expectation?

So many even so called so called “aware” and “sensitized” men make all the right noises at home , perhaps even mean a great deal of the sound bytes that they provide ,but then deep rooted , subconscious values and behaviours come into play and men typically end up contradicting themselves. On one hand, we conduct sting operations on the occasion of Women’s Day and haul up doctors who are involved in committing the crime of determining sex of a foetus in India and then on the other hand join hands with countries like China to kill a UN resolution against sex selective abortions.

Nevertheless, progress is slowly but certainly being made though activists will always feel that the pace is still too slow. In the initial days, when one third of the seats in Panchayats and Municipalities were reserved for women, there was a lot of hue and cry. Initially men objected, but when the law was passed anyway, most men who lost the chance to contest often put up dummy women from their family. The scheme worked for a while but then as many of the women got trained and got a taste of political power, they declined to do the men’s bidding blindly.

Things admittedly are better in some parts of the country than others, but unquestionably things are getting better. The bill to reserve one third of seats in Parliament for women is still pending, but the voices that oppose it are getting less hoarse and creative solutions like increasing the number of seats in parliament are being thought of. May be in the next year or so, we will see some progress. Meanwhile, to conclude as I began, A Happy Women’s Day to all!

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