Women: To Be or Not To Be Liberated

By Dr. Neha

History

Recently we observed International Women’s day (IWD) (on 8th March).Most of the peoplewished their mothers, sisters, wives and friends by giving some gifts or flowers but very few ofthem will actually know the importance and reason of celebration of women’s day. It was not outof the blue that someone decided to celebrate this day like rose day, valentine’s day, chocolateday and others.. Let us go back to the history of this day.

1st national women’s day was observed on 28th February 1909 in the US following adeclaration by the Socialist Party of America.

In August 1910, an international women’s conference was organized in Copenhagenin which it was proposed by the German Socialist Luise Zietz to establish an annualwoman’s day but no date was decided.

On 18th March 1911, IWD was observed for the first time by over a million people inAustria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Women demanded voting rights and rightto hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination.

In 1913, Russian women observed their first IWD on the last Sunday in February (byJulian calendar). In 1917, demonstrations marking IWD in St Petersburg on the lastSunday in February (which fell on 8th March on the Gregorian calendar) initiated theFebruary revolution.

From its official adoption in Russia following the Soviet revolution in1917,8th Marchwas celebrated as IWD in communist and socialist countries and was also declared aholiday at many places.
It became popular in the west after 1977 when UN General Assembly invited memberstates to proclaim March 8 as the UN day for women’s right and world peace.

Liberation: What does this mean???
Starting the celebration of women’s day marked the starting of women’s liberation movement;and as such. Women started thinking and demanding their rights as a human being just like theirmale counterparts had been enjoying since this world came into existence.
Women’s liberation means freedom and empowerment of women to enjoy equal rights in allspheres of life, be it social, cultural, economic or professional.

Indian Conventions

We live in a country where there is no dearth of number of goddesses people worship everydaybut daughters are considered to be burdens on their families. Although our society has taken astep forward by allowing the daughters to study but most of them are still quite apprehensiveof letting them stand on their own and go out and work. They try to marry them off as soon aspossible. Girls in our country are taught right from their childhood their duties as a daughter,wife, mother, and daughter in law. But most parents usually forget to tell their daughters notto forget that they are human beings too like males and should strive to be economicallyindependent as well.
Some liberal families do allow their daughter in laws to go out for work but in spite of workingand getting equally tired as the husband, she is not expected to go home and take rest like herhusband. She has to cook for all, look into the children’s homework and before going to officein the morning she should be done with the daily household chores. Even if some women goout and work and earn equal to or more than the males in her family, it is often seen that manyof these women still don’t have their own identity in real sense. They were and they remainsomeone’s daughter or someone’s wife or daughter in law. Moreover as per conventionalteaching “an ideal woman” is the one who obeys her husband and in laws without any argument.Basically, what we expect from our women is to act like slaves in the hands of in laws and that iswhat they are brought up and educated for in their parent’s home. This idea of an almost saintlyand sacrificing daughter in law is being propagated by various daily soap operas on televisionand also Bollywood movies.
Actually it is the family of the girl which is to be blamed which instills in her innocent mind tobe a creature that was and always will be subordinate to men. The family itself pushes her awayfrom liberation. If we notice the so called modern, emancipated young girl of today– intelligent,fashionable, pursuing higher education, taking professional courses; those who look good andtalk smart, we will realize that 90% of them are getting ready for a great marriage as their finalgoal. .It is a pity that they do not understand the real meaning of progress or liberation!
Another thing worth mentioning about conventional male dominated Indian societyis the custom to remember and force everyone to remember those who promoted andpropagated the stereotype male superiority and dominance; for example, Ramakrishnaand Vivekananda. The society conveniently makes everyone forget those who dedicatedtheir lives for female upliftment and betterment of the society like Ishwar ChandraVidyasagar.

People like Vivekananda and Ramakrishna were not in favor of girl education; widowremarriage was a sin for them and for them, a woman was nothing but merely an object to obtainpleasure. They started heinous rituals like “kumari puja” in which people were supposed to havesex with immature virgin girls. According to them women are supposed to follow orders of theirhusbands and those who don’t are bad women. On the other hand Vidyasagar promoted theidea of girl education and it is largely because of his efforts that today’s girls are educated. Hesupported widow remarriage. In real sense he supported women’s liberation but Ramakrishnaand Vivekananda always taught in favor of oppression of womankind! But sadly we celebratebirthday of Vivekananda and Ramakrishna but Vidyasagar has been forgotten. No media evermentions his birthday. No program is organized to acknowledge his contributions but we aremade to celebrate and remember irrational women oppressors!

Role of religion:

All religions and the obnoxious caste system in our country have made the plight of the womenmiserable. In various religious texts it has been mentioned as the right of the men to beat theirwives as and when they feel. Religion is not very happy with the education of the girl child.Religion considers widow remarriage a sin. All religions support patriarchy (this shows probablyall religious texts were written by males). They teach as well as force us to believe males aresuperior to females.
Pulling out women from the shackles of this age old world of exploitation and harassmentand letting them enjoy equal rights as men do is women’s liberation.

Negative image: The “modern” concept of women’s liberation

But these days some people compare women’s liberation with free sex, smoking, drinkingalcohol, pubs, discotheques, nudity, polyandry and similar things. This concept soundshighly superficial and irrational. It makes women fighting for their liberation look so smalland disgusting.
People have started propagating this negative image of women’s liberation. Although womenhave right to smoke, drink alcohol, go to pubs, have free sex but these are not what we mean byliberation. As we all know we have prominent examples of polygamy as well as polyandry inour popular epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata but these don’t make women liberated. Rather,these give human beings a status of sex slaves (women in case of polygamy and men in case ofpolyandry). Nudity for some might represent liberation but I would call that sexual perversion.Some people argue for making prostitution legalized as it will liberate sex workers. They don’twant to eradicate this disease in the name of ‘bread and butter for sex workers’ but will they send
their own mother, sister and wife for earning “bread and butter” in this “profession” once it islegalized??

Hypocrisy

On one hand we talk of women liberation and empowerment but on the other hand we demandand accept privileges for women like reservation of seats for women in metro train, buses etc andincome tax advantages for women. These are nothing but the leftovers of the male dominatedsystem being hurled to women. Why don’t women understand this is just a trick to prove thatwomen are weak and that is the reason they are granted such privileges which are otherwisegiven to the cripples. Women should not demand equality or equal rights if they want privileges.This is sheer hypocrisy.

Conclusion:

This kind of irrational discrimination based on sex is seen just in human species. There is nosuch discrimination among animals like in horse race also both male and female horses runtogether and sometimes the male wins and sometimes the female horse.
How much time does our society need to realize that a newborn is first of all a humanbaby and later a male or a female. A baby has right to have mother’s milk, get educated,get love and affection and grow into a healthy adult It has the right to choose professionand earn, has right to have its own way of thoughts and action. How do any of thesethings get affected by the sex of the child? Actually what we need is human liberationthat is, all humans regardless of their sex, race, sexual preference, age, economic class,physical ability etc deserve freedom from exploitation and oppression meaning no slavery,no harassment and no discrimination. Without a real human liberation we can’t expect women’s liberation.

A girl-child in Sundarbans, after AILA

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