International Women’s Day: What is it that scares our patriarchal social-order?

Why not go beyond laws and have 50 percent women representation?

Written by Nisha Agrawal | Updated: March 8, 2017 10:32 am
Women's day, international women's day. woman day, women day, women representation, parliament women representation, parliament women MPs, Lipstick Under My Burkha Women labourers head work in Panchkula. Express Photo by Sumit Malhotra

On February 23, the Central Board of Film Certification refused to certify the film Lipstick Under My Burkha citing the story to be “lady-oriented”. It was yet another brutal reminder, if one was needed, of the male-dominated society we still live in. Ironically, this decision comes at a time when women across the world will go on a strike against misogyny, gender-based violence and everything that is “non-lady-oriented”.

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world,” 20th century English writer and modernist Virginia Woolf’s words flawlessly describe why women, after more than 100 years of first celebrating International’s Women’s Day, are still fighting for equality.

Lipstick Under My Burkha narrates the story of four women who live in a small Indian town and have dreams and desires. It looks at things from a woman’s perspective, allows them to tell their own stories, to be good and bad. So why silence it? What is it that scares our patriarchal social-order?

Well, the answer lies in the way we create space for women in our political, cultural, social and economic structures. In India, the figures say it all. While at a primary school level enrolment for boys and girls is almost equal, around 20 per cent drop out of girls is seem at the secondary school level. Then comes economic control. During the last 10 years, the labor force participation rate of Indian women, already very low compared to other Asian countries, has fallen from 37 to 27 percent. As we prosper, we are becoming more controlling and stopping women from stepping out to earn their own incomes. India is one of the few countries in the world where there is a break in a woman’s career when she gets married unlike in other parts of the world where women withdraw for brief periods during child-birth.

Political participation is abysmal. Even after over 70 years of Independence, we haven’t had more than 11 per cent of women in the Indian Parliament. The Women’s Reservation Bill asking for only 33 per cent of seats (why not 50 per cent) faces stiff resistance from male MPs and the whole “male-oriented” political system. The Corporate sector on the other hand is no better. Many listed companies seem to find it hard to hire even one competent woman for their Board, a mandatory under the Companies Act. Why not go beyond laws and have 50 percent women board members?

When Justin Trudeau became the Prime Minister of Canada in 2015 and appointed a Cabinet of Ministers that was half male and half female, people asked him why?. “Because it is 2015” was his simple but powerful response that echoed around the world. But clearly, 2015 has not yet arrived in India.

In addition to the contribution in economic, political and social spaces, women still carry almost the entire burden of caregiving and household work in most countries. India has one of the largest gaps in the number of hours men and women spend on unpaid care and domestic work. This not only takes a toll on a woman’s health but in many cases costs her professionally, forcing her to pull back and fulfill the expectations tossed at by the society. And the worst of all is that this work and care is un-recognized, un-paid and un-appreciated. No GDP figures and other measures of wellbeing take into account this huge contribution that women are making to the society.

There is another horrifying reality of our country. Sixty per cent of both men and women accept domestic violence. Out of this, 40 per cent of women are beaten up for reasons like not serving warm food, disrespecting in-laws, not taking care of their home and not having sex. Women choose to be silent at home and this is where the deeply entrenched patriarchy wins.

All this now has come to a head and women all over the world, including India, are saying that we are tired and fed up– Enough is Enough. A call has been made for a one-day strike on March 8 to show what the world without women would look like. Women will not go to work nor work at home or shop for anything. We will see how the workplace, home and free-market economy that depends on buying and selling of goods and services copes without us. What would a world without women look like? Women will show you on March 8.

Nisha Agrawal is CEO, Oxfam India. Views expressed are personal.

For all the latest Blogs News, download Indian Express App

  1. M
    Mahender Goriganti
    Mar 8, 2017 at 3:36 am
    I don;t even know what the Muslim women status is if there is any but Islamic express will not touch that. Now the real facts. lt;br/gt;Not all societies are patriarchal in the world, definitely bot in native Americans or in some In some INDIA STATES AND CULTURES. .lt;br/gt;But Islamic express wall find a way to sell them as Indian problems but not Muslim problems at all when it the
    Reply
    1. P
      PRADEEP CHATURVEDI
      Mar 8, 2017 at 11:28 am
      3.70 LAKH husbands committed suicide in the past some years. Hubbies also get beaten up falsely implicated in Dowry harment cases. Status of HINDOO women is not up to the mark what about women of other religious denominations. Maybe Christian girls are better placed
      Reply
      1. R
        Rohit
        Mar 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm
        How about 50% men in the NCW for a start? Unfortunately this equality for women movement has turned into a farce - with its benefits not reaching where they should and reaching where they shouldn't! It has simply denigrated into an anti-male movement more than anything else. Under the garb of equality it is only misguiding young women into thinking that men are villains. By this all it will achieve is mistrust in the minds of these girls, in turn who would prefer not to get married (or become husband harers if they get married). This in turn will have long term effects of breaking down the insution of marriage, and thus the family system. The end result will be a group of people desolate, lonely, depressed, hopeless.
        Reply
        1. R
          rohit
          Mar 10, 2017 at 2:58 pm
          Everything is OK.
          Reply
          1. R
            Raju
            Mar 10, 2017 at 3:51 pm
            Good.
            Reply
            1. R
              Raju
              Mar 11, 2017 at 6:33 am
              Men and women are complementry to each other. Please don't make them compeor.
              Reply
              1. S
                Soumyakanti Chakraborty
                Mar 12, 2017 at 3:30 am
                Demand for equality is not compeion.
                Reply
                1. S
                  Soumyakanti Chakraborty
                  Mar 12, 2017 at 3:33 am
                  Its time to p a law that would mandate political parties to give at least 50% of the tickets to women. Also, half of reserved seats among SC/ST/OBC in jobs and universities should be reserved for women within that category. Its about time that women demand rights and aggressively ert themselves in the public space. I'm a man, but I consider myself a feminist, albeit a liberal feminist, not a radical.
                  Reply
                  1. Load More Comments