TN: BJP's Regressive Policies Affecting Women, CPI(M) Conference Demands Women's Rights and Equality
CPI(M) state secretary K Balakrishnan addressed the conference seeking women’s rights and equality in Kanniyakumari district.
The number of Crimes against women registered in 2021 was 4,28,278, a 15.3% increase as compared to 2020, as per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) report published in August 2022. The number of cases of crimes against children also increased by 16.2% to 1,49,404 during the same period. The decadal increase of such cases of atrocities against women and children has spiked by over 87% from 2011.
Urging the Union government to ensure the effective implementation of existing laws and prevent atrocities against women, including domestic violence, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] held a conference in Tamil Nadu on June 25.
The conference condemned the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Union government for the inordinate delay in passing the bill ensuring 33% reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
The conference passed a resolution on the urgent intervention of the union and state governments to ensure gender equality and fight the regressive policies favouring the corporate, patriarchal and feudal systems to liberate women from sustained suppression.
MULTI-PRONGED ATTACK ON WOMEN
As per the 2021 report of the NCRB, of the total 4,28,278 cases registered on atrocities against women, 31.8% cases were registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) under cruelty by husband or his relatives, while 20.8% were under assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty.
The increasing number of domestic violence cases is a growing concern in the country and in Tamil Nadu. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) for 2019-20 revealed that 44.7% of married women faced physical and sexual assault in their homes.
U Vasuki, a central committee member of the CPI(M), accused the societal system of being the real enemy of women's rights and the need for a unified struggle to fight the system and to change it.
"It is the societal system which stands in the way of women winning their rights and not men or women as perceived generally. Patriarchy, feudalism and capitalism are the enemies of women's development, which needs a struggle that can be won with the participation of people from different walks of life," she said while addressing the conference.
U Vasuki honoured Vasantha Kumari, the first woman driver of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC), at the conference
Besides domestic violence, harassment in the workplace, public space, and cyberspace is haunting women. Lack of awareness, social stigma, and lack of access to police and judiciary remain challenges to bringing out the innumerable number of atrocities suffered by women.
“Cyberspace is highly unsafe for women from all sections of the society. The modesty and integrity of the women are questioned easily, and their images are tarnished. The women from dalit and tribal communities suffer further exploitations,” Vasuki said.
The conference noted the struggle of women for equal wages for equal work, growing religious fundamentalism and India being ranked 148th out of 170 countries in the Women’s Peace and Security Index.
Former MLA R Leema Rose proposed the resolution in the conference seeking intervention of the respective governments in curbing atrocities against women and speedy justice for the victims.
‘SETBACK FOR WOMEN UNDER BJP REGIME’
Apart from atrocities from multiple corners, the policies pursued by the respective governments also impact women. The rightward political shift in India, with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backed BJP government promoting Manusmriti as the rule book, are massive concerns for women.
“The pro-corporate, pro-Hindutva policies affect the women adversely. With spiralling prices of essentials and historically high prices of LPG cylinders, the women are the immediate casualties of such policies,” Vasuki said.
Referring to the minor advancements of women after massive struggles over the past several decades, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, MP and deputy general secretary of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), said, “Women still struggle for education, employment opportunities and equal wages. With the BJP government’s National Education Policy (NEP), whatever little the women have achieved will be nullified.”
Kanimozhi Karunanidhi MP handed over the pamphlet on Women’s Rights to V Radhika, the state general secretary of AIDWA
The BJP had promised to pass the Women's Reservation Bill, 2008, during its election campaign ahead of the 2014 elections. But, with less than a year left in office, the BJP has not even listed the bill in any of the Lok Sabha sessions.
PK Sreemathy Teacher, the national president of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), accused the BJP of belittling the rights of women.
"The BJP is not ready to bring the Women's Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha. By blindly following Manusmriti and supporting RSS ideologies, the BJP is pushing women backwards," she said.
PK Sreemathy Teacher addressed the conference, highlighting the advancements of women in Kerala through the Kudumbashree program.
Lauding the government of Tamil Nadu for women-friendly schemes, including free rides for women in city and town buses and free rice through rations shops, she added, "The Communist Party-led government in Kerala in 1957 took the first step to empower women by implementing land reforms and making education free and compulsory in 1958. If BJP is not defeated in the upcoming General elections, they will ruin all the efforts of states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu."
RAY OF HOPE
Amidst the controversial orders from the judiciary, inaction or delayed action of the women's commission on issues including wrestlers' protest and protest of Kalakshetra students against sexual harassment, the judgement of Madras High Court has increased hope.
"While some courses have directed to seek the help of astrology in a sexual harassment case, the Madras High Court judgement on a homemaker having the right to share of husband's property has come as a huge relief," K Balakrishnan, the state secretary of the CPI(M) said during the conference.
The CPI(M) and AIDWA have been advocating the rights of unpaid labour contributed by homemakers in bringing up children, preparing food for members of the family and carrying out all work at home. The Union ministry of women and child development, in 2012, proposed men share or pay a share of their income to their wives. It never took off.
"The work of men is mostly regulated, while women working at their homes carry out work for several hours. Such labour is unaccounted and must be given due recognition and payment," Balakrishnan said.
INTERVENTION OF CPI(M), AIDWA
Several survivors, their family members and victims of sexual harassment, acid attacks, bonded labour and domestic violence shared their experiences in fighting for justice with the help of the CPI(M) and AIDWA.
Nagavalli, a woman from the Irular tribe in Chengalpet district, was one among the members of 10 families entangled as bonded labourers.
"Most of the women were sexually exploited by the owner who paid Rs 15,000 advance and Rs 100 daily wage for 12 hours of work. I contacted the AIDWA and CPI(M) leaders, and now we are saved".
Kiruthiga’s mother explained the fight she is pursuing against domestic violence and acid attack.
P Suganthi, the vice president of AIDWA, accused that the culprits in domestic violence cases have not been arrested by the police despite FIRs being filed under several sections.
In a domestic violence case, Kiruthiga faced an acid attack from her husband and family members. Her mother shared the ordeal faced by demands of dowry from the groom and the domestic violence.
Tags: Women's Rights, Equality, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, CPIM, AIDWA, DMK, BJP, RSS, Hindutva, Domestic Violence
Nagavalli (left) and Latha (right) shared their traumatising experience in their struggle during the conference.
Latha, a woman from Tirunelveli district, explained about the legal battle she waged against the microfinance companies which harassed the women who took loans and were unable to pay back during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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