International Women’s Day 2016

“One of the things the women’s movement does is to make you feel pain. You have to have a lot of courage to accept that if you commit yourself, over the long term, not just for three months, not for a year, not for two years, but for a lifetime, to feminism, to the women’s movement, that you are going to live with a lot of pain. In this country that is not a fashionable thing to do. So be prepared for the therapists. And be prepared for the prescriptions. Be prepared for all the people who tell you that it’s your problem, it’s not a social problem, and why are you so bitter, and what’s wrong with you? And underneath that is always the presumption that the rape was delusional, that the battery did not happen, that the economic hardship is your own unfortunate personal failing. Hold onto the fact that that’s not true: it has never been true.”

— Andrea Dworkin, “Feminism: An Agenda,” from Letters from a War Zone, 1988

Red women's workshop
Courtesy: Red Women’s Workshop

We would have hoped that sixteen years into the 21st century would bring change into women’s movements but sadly the condition seems to have worsened. We as society, have been more hell bent on proving gender equations meaningless and useless since women ought to conform to Kinder, Kuche, Kirche. And it is our very own ambition to exist, just exist, that has led to a vehement attack on women all over the world. The religious and superstitious have found new meaning in blaming women’s adversaries on their usage of technology, clothes, food and other normal cultural habits. And this will go on as long as we don’t stand up in solidarity. All the 50% inhabitants of this planet, rise up. Otherwise, masculinity is all in arms against women and their aspirations. We yearn for political freedom and free thought, social, economic and cultural freedom.

As long as women are brutally killed by mobs on suspicion of adultery, blasphemy, witchcraft and little girls subjected to genital mutilation, we will have to keep the fight alive, strong and going. Much is written on our assertion for rights- to education, healthcare, political and social equality and freedom. March 8th marks a day when women are projected as the ultimate big bosses who have it all in them, they just need a bit more respect from men. Isn’t this very assumption harming and legitimately destroying the women’s movement and their work achievements so far? For all our collective thought into defending and protecting women’s rights as their natural rights suffer a blow when women like Farkhunda in Afghanistan get killed by a crazy mob on false accusations of burning a Koran copy. The police pave no road for safety or protection of women from such evil civil society forces. We have put a black eye patch and also cease to see clearly through the other eye. One of the very accepted norms is public judgement to women, whether they are guilty or not. People love to take the law in their hands especially now seen through documented cases of stoning women to death. Farkhunda in Afghanistan in 2015, a 13 year old girl Aisha in Somalia in 2013 because she tried to report the men who raped her, Arifa Bibi, a mother of two in Pakistan for possessing a cellphone. And countless many cases which don’t get publicised outside their villages and countries.

The aeons old gender distinction ought to be scrapped now. Women are part of combat forces, war journalism, hell even presidents of major nations and yet we find women denied basic human rights. The suffragettes did not die for a picture like this that still exists a century later. They ignited the fire for freedom for change. What harm will women wearing a pair of pants or make-up on their faces cause to the many protectors of religion who sit with pieces of straw in their beards? How is a woman asserting her right to say NO, responsible for causing earthquakes and other natural phenomena? Even if I wish to laugh my head over these silly anecdotes, the serious truth of women in danger everywhere is prominent and ought to be taken with as much responsibility by governments and the very machinery that promises to provide equal rights to all. Liberation cannot be won simply by the passing of laws and regulations, but an inherent mental makeover of the other half of population that still believes in women staying put in houses since it is their natural abode. Two world wars have taught the men that women not only could run their businesses and factories but flourish them. A better clarity on gender structure was never seen prior to this era. Even with the fast rise of religious doctrines and fatwas against women, atrocities by the Boko Haram or village courts, women have got to unite to fight for every woman, right from Malawi, Niger, Somalia, Sri Lanka to Albania, Syria, Lebanon and Latin America. We are all in together.

Fanatics can injure a Malala, murder Berta Caseres, dispirit Bhanwari Devi but they can NEVER, I assert, NEVER be able to crush the song of the freedom bird that resides in the hearts of all those who yearn towards a beautiful and safe future for their girls and themselves. Today is a reminder to keep walking past the shoulders of those who belittle us, standing tall and chin up for the women who will carry this revolution and song of freedom forward towards a just and rightfully, equal world.

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