Friday, March 11, 2016

Womens day and India

Women workers of Europe were suffering harsh working conditions in various sectors, especially in garment sector.  By 1909, their protests were manifested as women's day and these events were organized by Socialist/Communist parties of Europe and America. Initial protests/women's day celebrations are recorded in 1910 in Copenhagen, Denmark.  In 1911, about a million people participated in protests/celebrations in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.  During protests, the women demanded suffrage, better work conditions, and provisions to hold public offices. 

While Americans were celebrating womens day in February, some countries/groups started on 8th March.   The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany and England was dedicated to women's right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918.  In 1917 demonstrations marking International Women's Day in Saint Petersburg on the last Thursday in February (which fell on March 8 on the Gregorian calendar) initiated the February Revolution.  Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for “Bread and Peace" – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism.  Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin made it an official holiday in the Soviet Union recognizing the role of women in Russian revolution. 

From its official adoption in Russia following the Soviet Revolution in 1917 the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist and socialist countries. It was celebrated by the communists in China from 1922, and by Spanish communists from 1936.  After the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949 the state council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off.  

In the West, International Women's Day was first observed as a popular event after 1977 when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women's rights and world peace.  

Today, the USA is promoting Womens day  in support of liberalism,  feminism and individual freedom.  Feminists across the world, including India, are supportive of Womens day celebration.  In countries such as India, the Women day is mainly celebrated by Western corporations to enhance engagement levels of women workforce.  This has encouraged other Indian companies to follow the suit.   Interestingly, womens day has become an occasion for criticizing Hindu tradition and culture as the cause of women problems of today.   Specifically, Indian family system, Manusmrithi, and patriarchal features of the society.   Such an attitude is supported by the propaganda unleashed by the religious intolerant groups and atheistic forces antagonistic to the Hinduism.  The womens day has also become an occasion for alleging discrimination against Women in Indian society. The womens day is also a tool for promoting feminism and liberalism in Indian society and creating a favorable bias towards these thoughts in the administration and judiciary. 

Womens day in India should be an occasion for remembering the need to protect Indian women from negative 360 degree feedback on men, and about our societal structures.  Today, the role of women is confusing as they are burdened with multiple roles delivered to be simultaneously.   Respect and recognition for women is more difficult today than in the past.   They face enhanced pressure and simultaneously they are not even assured of basic protection. 

Womens day sets a faulty premise and provides an irrelevant background to address issues of Indian women.   There is no need to highlight Womens day beyond official/governmental requirements if required.  Women issues should be addressed in the context of Indian society without burden of the global linkages rooted in gross insensitivity towards women.