‘‘From financial inclusion to social security, quality healthcare to housing, education to entrepreneurship, many efforts have been made to put our Nari Shakti. These efforts will continue with even greater vigour in the coming times.’’—said Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Taking a cue from that, Union home minister, Amit Shah, virtually second-in-command, boasted ‘‘Prime Minister Narendra Modiji has changed the thinking of women’s development into the resolve of women-led development and opened the doors of opportunities.’’ If they have meant appointment of Draupadi Murmu as President and Nirmala Sitharaman as Finance Minister as surge of ‘‘Nari Shakti’’ (Women’s power), then, of course, it is their privilege. Otherwise, condition of women in India is horrific.
If one opens the daily newspaper, one finds at least four to five incidents of brutal crimes committed against women. But these are only the number what is reported. Several times more is the number not reported. Crimes vary from murder, kidnapping, rape, gang-rape dowry deaths, suicide, honour killings, domestic abuse, sexual assault, acid attack, female foeticide, infanticide and so on. ‘‘According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2011 there were more than 228,650 reported incidents of crime against women, while in 2021, there were 4,28,278 reported incidents, an 87% increase.’’ Same Bureau also reported incidents of crime against women increased by 15.3% in 2021 compared to the year 2020. However, in the last six years (2016-2021) crime against women rose by 26.35% from 338,954 cases in 2016. With more than 56,000 cases, the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, tops the list. Last year (2021), police recorded 31,878 rapes—the numbers show a steep rise from the previous year (28,153). With tens of thousands of rape cases reported annually, India has earned the moniker ‘‘the rape capital of the world’’. In 2021, police received complaints from 137,956 women— which breaks down to about one every four minutes. It’s an increase of 27% from 2016 when 110,434 women sought police help. Last year, police recorded 6,795 dowry deaths—or on average, one every 77 minutes.’’ Majority of cases under crime against women were registered under ‘Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives’ (31.8 per cent), followed by ‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (20.8 per cent), ‘Kidnapping and Abduction of Women’ (17.6 per cent), and ‘Rape’ (7.4%), according to the NCRB report. Hindus have the highest number of missing girls attributable to female foeticide in India, a new report prepared by the Pew Research Centre has revealed. According to their analysis, at least 9 million girls are ‘missing’ in India as a result of female infanticide from 2000 to 2019. To compare, this is slightly lower than the entire population of Uttarakhand.
Not only that. The National Commission for Women in 2020-21 received 26,513 domestic-violence complaints from women, an increase of 25.09 percent compared to the 20,309 complaints registered in 2019-20. Around 31% of all crimes against women registered in 2021 were of domestic abuse, followed by assaults and molestation at 20.8%. The rate of cases registered per lakh women population increased to 64.5 in 2021 from 56.5 in 2020. The National Commission for Women in 2020-21 received 26,513 domestic-violence complaints from women, an increase of 25.09 percent compared to the 20,309 complaints registered in 2019-20. 20 women die every day as a result of harassment over a dowry—either murdered, or compelled to commit suicide. Of late, the brutality has taken on a new dimension. The killing of an intimate partner (one live-in-partner) by another partner in one or the other part of the country in a most savage way. The bodies of the murdered woman are chopped in various parts and thrown away at multiple locations. The parents are also taking extreme steps of killing their own daughters when they are found to be in love with a boy of another caste or religion. About 300 acid attacks on women are reported in India each year. The mindset of the people against the women can be judged from the data that 65% of Indian men believe women should tolerate violence in order to keep the family together, and women sometimes deserve to be beaten.
As regards education and health, female literacy rate in India lingers behind at 62.3% for women as compared to 80% for men. Many girls in India are married at a young age and drop out of school after they complete their primary education due to societal pressures or early pregnancies. 13.5 percent of girls between the ages 15-16 are out of school because of that. Child labour and lack of feminine hygiene products keep girls from coming to school and contribute to the illiteracy rates and continuous lack of education. A 2015 study found that approximately 28.2% of children whose mothers have no education have an educational level of primary or lower, while only less than 1% of children whose mothers completed high secondary education have an educational level of primary or lower. As mothers in India remain uneducated, they negatively impact the education of their children thus the educational disparities become a cyclical, intergenerational issue. Similar is the case with health of women. A quarter of Indian women of reproductive age are malnourished, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18.5 kg/m2. 66.4% women are suffering from anemia.
Cause of this predicament, sufferings and maltreatment of Indian women lies in socio-political reality. The women in India are still bound within the obsolete putrid feudal thoughts and customs. She is still considered as a private property of the man. Such is the discrimination for girl child that starts from the cradle itself in decadent moribund global imperialism-capitalism, of which the ruling Indian capitalism is an inalienable part. So, it is compromising with the outdated outmoded discriminatory feudal mindset and social injunctions that prescribed subjugation of women. To this is added the rotten thought of consumerism bred by dying capitalism-imperialism. This consumerist mindset coupled with hangover of feudal patriarchy has given rise to the thought of objectification of women. This is the crux of the problem.
Let us end with an invaluable quote of great Lenin: ‘‘Could there be a more damning proof of this than the calm acquiescence of men who see how women grow worn out in petty, monotonous household work, their strength and time dissipated and wasted, their minds growing narrow and stale, their hearts beating slowly, their will weakened! …What I am saying applies to the overwhelming majority of women, to the wives of workers and to those who stand all day in a factory. So, few men—even among the proletariat—realize with how much effort and trouble they could save women, even quite do away with, if they were to lend a hand in ‘women’s work’. But no, that is contrary to the ‘rights and dignity of a man’. They want their peace and comfort. The home life of the woman is a daily sacrifice to a thousand unimportant trivialities. The old master right of the man still lives in secret. His slave takes her revenge, also secretly. The backwardness of women, their lack of understanding for the revolutionary ideals of the man decreases his joy and determination in fighting. They are like little worms which, unseen, slowly but surely, rot and corrode. I know the life of the worker, and not only from books. Our communist work among the women, our political work, embraces a great deal of educational work among men. We must root out the old ‘master’ idea to its last and smallest root, in the Party and among the masses. That is one of our political tasks, just as is the urgently necessary task of forming a staff of men and women comrades, well trained in theory and practice, to carry on Party activity among working women’’.
(Source: Time.com 27-06-19, Violence against women, WHO dated 09-03-21, shethepeople 21-04-20, Crimes against women-legal services India, down to earth 28-12-20, hwnews 24-01-22, outlook 30-08-22, BBC 13-09-22, ballardbrief’, bmc nutrition 22-08-22, The Wire 06-09-22, Press Information Bureau, government of India, 03-10-22, Lenin on the Women’s Question’ by Clara Zetkin)