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Issue of Women’s rights in India

Synopsis: March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day. While celebrating it, we also need to look back at how women’s rights upheld by the state in the last years.

Background:

  • 8th march is being celebrated as International Women’s Day. It is celebrated to commemorate the struggles of women factory workers.
  • It was first organised by socialist movements as “international women’s day” in the first decade of the 20th century.
  • Later, from the 1920s, it began to be celebrated annually by communist parties, first in the Soviet Union and then in China.
  • Much later, the United Nations “established” International Women’s Day in 1977 in the wake of the International Women’s Year in 1975.
  • In India, the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8 started in the 1980s.
  • For the last few years, there are demands to celebrate the death of Savitribai Phule on March 10 as Women’s Day in India.

Contribution of Savitribai Phule

  1. Savitribai Phule was colonial India’s first female teacher. She fought for the cause of “social justice” against women’s caste-differentiated enslavement. She was ousted from the family home for breaking caste codes.
  2. Furthermore, she was instrumental in establishing the Satyashodhak Samaj in Maharashtra by her husband Jyotirao Phule.
    • It was a social reform society that focused on education and increased social rights and political access for underprivileged groups.
  3. However, the legacy, of Savitribai Phule, long ignored in the history of women’s rights.

State’s response to the major women-centric movements in 2020

  1. First, Denial of right to protest. For example, the Shaheen Bagh protest led by Muslim women against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act. This protest ended with the arrests of many young women and students, on the charges of having incited violence.
    • In the recent farmer protests against the three farm laws, many women participated even during freezing weather in Delhi. However, the state didn’t show apathy towards their concerns.
  2. Second, denial of rights to live a dignified life. For example, Lockdown imposed hardship on women migrants. They were left without basic survival needs – food, shelter and care due to lack of social security.
  3. Three, denial of economic rights to women. For example, the lockdown witnessed increased domestic violence against women. Also, the burden of Women’s household care work increased due to the absence of paid domestic workers. Yet, there was no state response to recognize women’s care work and housework.
  4. Fourth, ineffective towards deterring gender violence based on caste. For example, Hathras rape case. The state response in tackling this kind of crime not proved effective to deter future caste-based violence.
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