International Women's Day (IWD) will be celebrated on March 8 with this year's IWD theme aptly titled "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women."
On the occasion of IWD, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon gave out a stark speech highlighting the recent crimes against women all over the world.
"One young woman was gang-raped to death. Another committed suicide out of a sense of shame that should have attached to the perpetrators. Young teens were shot at close range for daring to seek an education..." he pointed out adding, "we will prosecute crimes against women - and never allow women to be subjected to punishments for the abuses they have suffered."
In a society where women are demanding their right for security, protection and equality, the speech is a grim reminder of its gender biasness.
Indian women can only look at the appalling rates of girls and women being molested, thrashed, raped and wonder if the honouring of 'Nirbhaya' (Delhi gang rape victim) and ten other extraordinary women by US Secretary John Kerry and First Lady Michelle Obama would alleviate gender-based violence in the country and across the world.
This year's Union Budget suggestions of allocating a women-only bank and the Nirbhaya Fund are found incompetent to serve millions of women in the country. Several women's groups punctured the Budget's allotments as sham and evidence of hypocrisy.
Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, voicing her disgust remarked, "It works out at 8 rupees for every woman for banking finance and 8 rupees for security and safety. It's peanuts. This is reflective of a lack of commitment and thinking on gender issues," as reported by Trustlaw.
Even though there was a close call for working women with the passing of the 'The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace' Bill in Parliament, there is still no respite for women facing domestic violence even with the presence of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
UN statistics have revealed that about 603 million women all over the world face domestic violence which goes mostly unnoticed as a crime. Till now, the Indian government has refused to include marital rape under criminal law, conferring it to be a contradiction of principles.
The issue of sexual or physical violence has grabbed the limelight with statistics revealing that close to 70 percent of women face such abuses at some point in their lives, reported the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
As sensitizing it may sound the only solace is appeal for change in the mindset of people.
Not to be sidelined are issues of women's healthcare, education, her right to land and property, and social evils like female foeticide and 'honour killings', and gender inequality at work.
Defying all negatives, the UN's message of hope this IWD is the powerful track 'One Woman' which will celebrate courageous acts of common women who have overridden their crisis. The song sung by artists from all over the world also has Indian sitarist Anoushka Shankar contributing her talent.
With ordinary words the simple song aims to reach the underbelly of all women pressed under the weight of oppression and social stigma.
However, inspiration surfaces with achievers like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Pepsico Chairman Indira Nooyi, NY Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, Walmart's CEO Rosalind Brewer, South Korea's first female president Park Guen-hye, Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner and several remarkable women who have excelled in their respective fields, not only overcoming cut-throat patriarchal existence but also holding on to their strong willed ideas.
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