A lot of things have remained unchanged between the last Women’s Day and the one that just went by: marital rape, triple Talaq…
It lasted twenty-four hours. I suspect these twenty-four hours must be torturous for so many. It wasn’t like brave souls didn’t raise their voice against the oppression, so powerful was the onslaught, they were summarily crushed. I am talking about International Women’s day, which was recently celebrated all over social media, by several brands, and in several restaurants and bars.
While there were those who weren’t worried, some people rightly expressed apprehensions that it was unfair for women to have one special day for themselves, while men didn’t. Well, to be fair, it’s possible that in the early days of patriarchy, men must have felt special but they soon got used to and bored of all the oppression they perpetrated, and now there’s nothing special about the remaining 364 days.
I mean, are men really wrong when they complain about stores offering discounts to women? So what if men enjoy far bigger ‘discounts’ in the form of much higher wages? (A 2010 report of the World Economic Forum claims that even in the corporate sector, women are paid one-third of what men in the same position are paid.)
There is a school of thought, which believes that if things get out of hand, one day could soon increase to two and maybe even a whole month. We must not get carried away. I believe that all such concerns are unfounded, because men march on as gloriously as ever and nothing really changes.
To reassure other men I have made a list of the things that remained unchanged in India between the last women’s day and this one:
1) Marital rape continues to be legal. Several studies show that it is also commonly prevalent. Rape is legal in India, as long as the person doing it happens to be your husband. Yes, there are many countries in the world where marital rape is a crime (including Nepal) and there is no significant abuse of law. Yet, people continue to raise the spectre of the institution of marriage and family getting destroyed if marital rape is criminalised in India. Women being raped is a small price to pay for the long life of these institutions.
2) Adultery continues to be a crime. If a married woman sleeps with a man who isn’t her husband, her husband has the right to sue the said third man. The woman’s consent in filing this case, or the fact that she chose to do as she pleased with her body is irrelevant. Her body is not her own. The law’s origins can be traced to the 16th century (four hundred years ago), a time when it was cool to openly acknowledge that women were the property of men. Those were the days.
3) Women’s reservation bill, originally tabled in Parliament in 1996, has still not been passed. The bill is futile anyway, because there is still a lot of confusion over what women should be allowed to eat and wear and who they should have sex with.
4) “Sex against the order of nature” continues to be a crime under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. This is simple. We are regressive and cruel by nature, so members of the LGBTQ community having sex is against our nature. Indians have tremendous clarity when it comes to sex- we are busy either arguing that we must be allowed to forcibly have sex, or arguing that someone else must not be allowed to have any sex.
5) The government has not come out with a law that prohibits housing discrimination – and the society takes care of the rest by ensuring that single working women find it difficult to rent houses. They are getting discounts once ayear, though, and one shouldn’t be too greedy.
6) While there is plenty of debate around the matter, Triple Talaq continues to be legal. When it is otherwise clear that men own women, why is there so much conversation around whether they can be summarily dumped and abandoned?
7) On Twitter, the Prime Minister of India continues to follow people who threaten and abuse women. In case you’re not a Twitter person, ‘follow’ here does not mean he is monitoring them, it actually means that he finds them interesting.
8) The government continues to make a mockery of the Nirbhaya Fund, with a large part of the funds lying unused. Also, the government had initially planned to have 660 one-stop centres, which would provide medical, legal and psychological assistance to rape survivors. The number has now been scaled down to 36. The government clearly came to its senses and realised that not all men are rapists and so, we don’t need these many centres. Modi marked the occasion of women’s day strangely not with an acronym, but by saying that he ‘salutes nari shakti’. This is large-hearted of him, because we all know that while oppressing a group of people, it is helpful to tell them that they are very brave and full of shakti. There was this slogan doing the rounds during the 2014 national elections. Was it ‘Bohot hua naari pe vaar, abki baar discounts in bar’? No, I don’t think so.
This article was first published in the Mumbai Mirror