NIMA MENON on International Women’s Day shines a light on gender inequality in the modern day
Earlier this month was International Women’s Day, and every year there is a slightly different focus. Women from around the world choose this day to speak out about the injustices and oppression that they face on a daily basis. Even in the 21st Century there are numerous stories of gender inequality. But it is through these adversities that the strength of women is revealed. Like a modern day version of ‘Girl Power’.
Of the many stories that have caught global attention, is the courageous Malala Yousufzai, who stood up to the tyranny of the Taliban. Malala became the voice for millions of young girls and women who live a life of oppression. By doing this, she became the youngest ever nominated for the Noble Peace prize. This young Pakistani Red Riding Hood refused to be intimidated by the Big Bad Taliban Wolf.
In horror stories around the world, women are being mutilated by having acid thrown onto their faces. It is interesting to note that men do this as an attempt to break a women’s spirit, by scarring her external beauty. It is assumed that a disfigured woman is going to stay indoors.
In other stories, young girls are married to much older men who prostitute them as a way of making a livelihood. While girls in the past have succumbed to their fate, some girls refuse to sell their bodies, despite being starved and beaten. In one story, Sahara Gul was sold by her parents to repay their debts. But this young 15-year-old refused to lead the life of a prostitute.
In India, a girl had to be brutally raped and murdered for a country to stand up against this kind of brutality that has been going on for centuries. There has been a tremendous outpouring of public grief worldwide in response to Nirbhaya’s death. Her father, while mourning his irreversible loss, hopes to see a rapid decline in violence against women. She was posthumously given the Rani Laxmibai award and the International Women of Courage award. This crusade, this awakening, has to retain its momentum to continue spreading the message that such horrific acts will not be tolerated.
It is unfortunate that India and China, who are seen as future leaders of the world economy, feature among the ten worst countries in the world for women. Despite India having had so many powerful female protagonists, there are still isolated pockets of the population that degrade and condemn women, even using them as tools of sexual gratification. In China the ‘one child’ policy has taken away from women a basic right, which is the right to bear children. It is believed that in the Democratic Republic of Congo rape is used as a weapon of war. It is beyond belief that in today’s day and age we have something called the ‘rape capital of the world’.
There are amazing stories of women and resilience. We have it in us to stand up against injustice and inequality. We have fought against the odds and won several times. All the male perpetrator has is his physical strength and an uncontrollable libido. The question is should we let something as trivial as that overpower us. Women have more resilience than they would give themselves due. They have to shun away from emotional blackmail and bondage. A woman does not need a man in her life for completion and fulfilment if he is one who does not respect her and stifles her growth as an individual.
Today we may have some very powerful women in the social and political arena like Angela Merkel, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sonia Gandhi, Melinda Gates, Christine Lagarde and Oprah Winfrey. Hillary Clinton has spoken about her travels to male dominated countries and acknowledges that she is only entertained as she is the Secretary of State of the USA. We are still not living in a world where daughters are valued the same as sons and encouraged to a make the same meaningful contributions to their society and the world they live in. Equal rights for women is still a debatable subject for the papacy: even today priesthood is a man’s domain.
After years of abuse and subjugation, women and girls around the globe are saying “Enough” and we are kidding ourselves if we think that women are less respected in the developing world. In fact, the plight of women is no better in the so-called progressive countries. So after another year celebrating International Woman’s Day, what have we achieved? Have we moved a step further in emancipating the state of women or do we just continue to be remorseful, talk about it and empathise with the plight of those who are not as fortunate as we are. I am looking forward to the day when there will be no International Woman’s Day, for that would mean that we share the same pedestal with men and don’t have to be the topic of a discussion. Jai Ho to Girl Power!!