The United Nations refers to International Women's Day as “a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women.” March 8 has been globally celebrated as International Women's Day since 1975. Setting aside a day to reflect on the progress made by the women's rights movement – in countries across the world – is a wonderful initiative. It was put in place to emphasize the strides women have taken in the public sphere as well as to celebrate their remarkable contributions to countries and communities.
Although March 8 has won official recognition as Women's Day, the tone of the celebration has changed over the years. Somewhere along the line, tokenism and commerce hijacked the issues that this day is meant to highlight. Apparel or shoe stores offering discounts to women or e-commerce portals attracting shoppers with special offers on cookware have ended up making a mockery of March 8. This unfortunate cosmetic makeover completely glosses over the spirit of International Women's Day.
There are several women's issues that need urgent attention. March 8 should be used as a platform to give these the visibility they deserve. The day must be reclaimed to spark off national debate and inspire substantial policy changes on issues that impact women's lives.
The list of issues is too long to fit into a blog. To highlight a few that concern Indian women:
- In India, over 60 percent of agricultural work is done by women, but we are still a long way off from ensuring them their rights to land, credit, and technology.
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau, crimes against women are reported every two minutes in India. Common instances of violence against women include domestic violence , acid attacks, rape, honor killings, and dowry deaths.
- Even in the 21st century, safe access to public spaces is not a reality for Indian women. Sexual harassment is rampant and a women taking a walk in a park or eating a meal by herself in a restaurant is an easy target. Public spaces are still considered to be a male privilege. A radical change in social attitudes, gender friendly policing, and better urban planning all need to come into play to ensure women the right to public spaces.
Illustration: Rahul Nagi