8 March 2013 | by The Petticoat Journal | NEW DELHI, MUMBAI
It was just another day celebrating just another human status. We celebrate fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, teachers, engineers, soldiers, and today, every year, we celebrate women. But this year, the International Women’s Day was away from routine in India. The voices were louder, they had a hot focus and, more importantly, they were under hot focus. Most programmes and demonstrations today were clearly an extension of the protests that started in the wake of the Dec 16 incident of gang rape in Delhi.
While there were non-profit organisations, women’s groups, political parties and other groups with political and personal ambitions putting up a show during the day, there was a spot right in the middle of the Jantar Mantar barricaded protest stretch which was occupied by a group which had no leader, no political or personal ambitions, no slogans, no flags, no placards, loads of enthusiasm, and people. Some people in this bunch of protestors have been on rotational fast for the past about a month, others have organised human chains, public theatre, and music concerts for the cause at various times during the past four months.
Today, they got together for a music performance, a street play, and a discussion. At this spot, the day began with music with a duo singing songs like O ri chiraiyya and Ruk jaa re bandey. This was followed by a street play, Chakravyuh. Pushpa Gurung, who has directed this play and has been an active protestor since the beginning, told The Petticoat Journal, “I am here because I feel insulted when I am walking on the road and some random man says something absolutely derogatory to me. What is his right to do so? Why should he not be booked for disrespecting another human being?” She is not sure how much and how fast the change will come by. But she is hopeful. Earlier in the day, her group performed the play at Hindi Bhawan. Chakravyuh is about the trauma of a woman who is raped and moves to women who will not take any disrespect and violence lying down.
In Mumbai, a non-profit organisation, Population First, started the ‘I am Laadli’ campaign. Dr AL Sharda, director, Population First, says, “It was heartening to see the spontaneous response to the Delhi incident. Most of it was emotional outburst, anger and frustration. We need to channelize it constructively to achieve the goal of a more gender just and equal society.”
Actor Tara Sharma, who has associated herself with the ‘I am Laadli’ campaign, tells The Petticoat Journal, “The atrocities and heinous crimes against women must stop and effective legal systems and policies are essential and in a longer term vision, education for all from babyhood up. As a mum of two amazing kids now and with my own show on the adventures of bringing up kids, I feel a responsibility to bring up our kids to respect everyone and I believe we can all make a difference.”
Back in Delhi, various non-profit organisations and women’s groups like Sangat, Jagori, All India Mahila Sanskriti Sangathan (AIMSS), National Federation of Indian Women (NIFW), All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan (PMS), and Delhi State Women’s Federation (DSWF) together marched some four kilometres in the scorching Delhi sun from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in Delhi. A crowd of about 500 women arrived at Jantar Mantar by afternoon with red bands on their heads raising slogans to demand stringent laws to punish crimes against women and complete acceptance of the recommendations of Justice Verma committee report.
Shomona Khanna, a Supreme Court lawyer who has been working in the area of women’s rights for a very long time, said, “Why is it so difficult to accept Justice Verma Committee report in totality? Take the marital rape provision for instance. A woman’s body becomes the property of not just the husband but his whole family once she is married. The provision will give women a very strong protection.” Besides, she feels, feminism in India is very well-grounded. Feminists in India have their basics right, she says.
“It’s because of our constant exertion that we could force them to rethink. They are reacting. The age of consent has been reduced to 16, rape is not defined as gender neutral. The opposition party is with the government. The standing committee headed by Venkaiah Naidu completely supported the government on its initial stand on Justice Verma committee report,” AIDWA’s Kavita Krishnan of AIDWA told The Petticoat Journal.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was also seen for a few hours at Jantar Mantar. Their men and women donned “Main Aam Aadmi Hun” and, also, “Main Aam Aurat Hun” Gandhi caps. Kumar Vishwas of the AAP, told The Petticoat Journal, “The government has all the time, money and space to discuss and pass laws like FDI and nuclear deals etc. But, no time to even talk about laws for safety of women. Why are they afraid to accept the Justice Verma committee report? Are they afraid that their men will come under the scanner?”
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