Why I didn’t want to celebrate Women’s Day

From being a day that recognised the need for equal rights for women everywhere, it has somehow become an occasion to sell women stuff in pink, food, clothes and makeup

Women's Day merits more than lip service
Women's Day merits more than lip service

Smita Singh

That’s right – I didn’t want to ‘celebrate’ the International Women’s Day. Let me explain why. I am not denouncing Women’s Day, I am denouncing what it has come to mean in our times.

There was an immediate trigger the day I decided this; that day a father had severed off his daughter’s head because he was unhappy with her relationship with a man; that same day some police men had asked women in a shelter home to strip and dance; that very day a woman was shot by unknown men; that day a rapist was asked if he will marry the girl; that day, someone in position of authority said there can be nothing as marital rape. These are the reasons enough to make one realise that there is nothing to ‘celebrate’ this Women’s Day.

As a friend pointed out, she was done with coupons of discount for luxury kitchen appliances, tableware, dishwashers and cleaning products, discounted lingerie, premium laminates and home decor items, clothing, make-up and jewellery and what not. So am I.

Why Women’s Day?

Do we even remember the real reason for starting Women's Day? Let’s take a step back in history. It was first observed in 1909, in New York, as National Women's Day. Later it gained fame and was seen as a day to mark various protests by women for equal rights. These women fought for the right to vote and for equal pay to begin with. It was not until 1975, that the United Nations finally observed March 8 as International Women's Day, before that each country observed Women's Day on different days.

From being a day that recognised the need for equal rights for women everywhere, it has somehow now become a day about taking advantage of an opportunity to sell women stuff in pink, food, clothes, and makeup. We have failed to take into account of why the day is even observed and not celebrated. We need to remember that it is not celebrated because women around the world still do not have equal rights in every sphere – it is observed because it should act as a reminder of the fact.

State of women in India

Here are some serious reasons why I did not want to celebrate Women’s Day. In September 2020 National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) came out with its annual ‘Crime in India’ record which to say the least was dismal. It showed crimes against women had increased by 7.3 per cent from 2018 to 2019. The report stated that, “A total of 4,05,861 cases of crime against women were registered during 2019, showing an increase of 7.3% over 2018 (3,78,236 cases). Majority of cases under crime against women under IPC were registered under ‘cruelty by husband or his relatives’ (30.9%), followed by ‘assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty’ (21.8%), ‘kidnapping & abduction of women’ (17.9%) and ‘rape’ (7.9%). The crime rate registered per lakh women population is 62.4 in 2019 in comparison with 58.8 in 2018.”

UP reported the highest number of crimes against women (59,853), accounting for 14.7 per cent of such cases across the country. It was followed by Rajasthan (41,550 cases; 10.2 per cent) and Maharashtra (37,144 cases; 9.2 per cent). Assam reported the highest rate of crime against women at 177.8 (per lakh population), followed by Rajasthan (110.4) and Haryana (108.5).

Rajasthan reported the highest number of rapes with 5,997 cases, followed by UP (3,065) and Madhya Pradesh (2,485). In terms of rate of rape cases, Rajasthan was the highest at 15.9 (per lakh population), followed by Kerala (11.1) and Haryana (10.9).

UP also had the highest number of crimes against girl children under the POCSO Act with 7,444 cases, followed by Maharashtra (6,402) and MP (6,053). The highest rate of these crimes were in Sikkim (27.1 per lakh population), MP (15.1), and Haryana (14.6).

UP had the highest number of dowry cases (2,410), at a rate of 2.2 (per lakh population), followed by Bihar (1,120). According to the report, 150 acid attacks were reported in 2019, of which 42 took place in UP and 36 in West Bengal.

After reading these who wants to celebrate and for what?

Social media and modern celebration

#WomensDay trended the whole day. I am sick of it and of the belief that being nice to women one day will satisfy them. Posting pictures and videos of themselves helping their mother or wife in the kitchen or other household chores does nothing for the cause of women. It does not make anyone a feminist, it does not mean they respect women, it means nothing.

This is how you can make it a meaningful

First and foremost, be an ally to women in the fight for equality, first accept that there is inequality, and then support them. Help your mom or wife every day and in turn become a responsible and independent adult. Do not shame women for wearing a dress, makeup, or having wants and desires. Please refrain from confining them to domestic roles and condescendingly telling them they are all ‘strong mothers.’ Like the other day when a traffic cop was holding her infant in her arms while directing traffic. It would be better if we celebrate by trying to build support systems for working women and mothers.

If you - whether a man or a woman, spot someone saying something sexist about another woman, speak up. Learn to treat your female friends, colleagues and family members with respect, they are like other normal human beings you know. People usually are of the opinion that women are asking for your validation or protection. Know that they are not. Learn to respect consent and boundaries. Every woman might have a different one. Finally, they are simply asking to be treated equally, with the same respect, the same choices, the same freedom that the other gender enjoys.

Views expressed are personal

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