Preparations take an edge every year in the initial days of March as the International Women’s Day approaches. This day is a celebration as people across the borders not only talk about issues concerning women but also acknowledge them. The Prime Minister’s Office also started a campaign amidst such celebrations called “#SheInspiresUs” on social media platforms.
“This Women’s Day, I will give away my social media accounts to women whose life & work inspire us. This will help them ignite motivation in millions. Are you such a woman or do you know such inspiring women? Share such stories using #SheInspiresUs,” he tweeted. Licypriya Kangujam, a young environmental activist was acknowledged in this campaign but she decided to turn down the so called honour.
Kangujam wrote “Dear Narendra Modi ji, Please don’t celebrate me if you are not going to listen to my voice. Thank you for selecting me amongst the inspiring women of the country under your initiative #SheInspiresUs. After thinking many times, I decided to turn down this honour. Jai Hind!”
Kangujam in an interview later said, “The campaign may be a good initiative to them, but considering the crimes against women and children, I don’t think it can solve anything. This will be like applying a fairness cream on our face which no longer stays once you clean yourself”. A young girl showed mirror to the ruling regime of India.
The current government is the epitome of what one would say is a “patriarchal state”. They have been actively implementing their Hindutva projects through a series of policies. Their attempt to in a way replace the Constitution with the Manusmriti is a clear indication for the masses across gender, religion and caste that they want to create a Hindu Rashtra based on caste system, degradation of women and exclusion of religious minorities.
Half of the population will face the worst of degradation if the government implements the projects of Hindutva. In the wake of such attempts, one needs to revisit the Manusmriti to gain insight of the plan that the ruling powers have in their minds for women.
Manusmriti has been solely responsible for the derogatory position accorded to women in the post-Vedic period. Shloka 9 of Chapter 3 says, “Since women are not capable of living independently, she is to be kept under the custody of her father as a child, under her husband as a woman and under her son as widow.” Shloka 5/167 says, “Any women violating duty and code of conduct towards her husband, is disgraced and becomes a patient of leprosy. After death, she enters womb of jackal.” Shloka 9/6 mentions, ” It is the duty of all husbands to exert total control over their wives. Even physically weak husbands must strive to control their wives.” These can even be referred in the works of Patrick Olivelle.
According to Manu, a strict social conduct needs to be adhered by women . She must be cheerful and adept in house management. She must be dedicated to the husband during her life time and should worship her husband, even if he is devoid of virtues.
Apart from the dependent status accorded to women, Manusmriti is also responsible for the caste system in India. Shloka 8/365 says ” In case a man from a lower caste enjoys sex with a woman from a higher caste, the person in question is to be awarded the death sentence.” Shloka 3/15 says, “When the twice born [Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaish] men in their folly marry low caste Shudra women, they are responsible for the degradation of their whole family. Accordingly, their children adopt all the demerits of the Shudra caste.”
In his 1916 paper, “Castes in India ” Ambedkar offered the insight that the caste system thrives by it’s control of women and that caste is a product of sustained endogamy. Since then, till the time he piloted the feminist Hindu Code Bill, Ambedkar deployed a range of arguments to make his case against Brahmanism and it’s twin, patriarchy . Unfortunately Ambedkar has not been celebrated as a feminist idol in the modern day progressive discourse. Sharmila Rege in the Introduction of the book “ Madness of Manu” rightly says that “students and teachers in most cases sail through post- graduate and research degrees in social sciences and practise women’s studies in the academia without ever having read the writings and speeches of Ambedkar”.
While ages ago Ambedkar said, “ I strongly believe in the movements run by women. If they are truly taken into confidence, they may change the present picture of society which is very miserable . In past they have played a significant role in improving the condition of weaker sections and classes”. But parliamentarians of the government have continued to defame a historic movement against CAA-NRC-NPR being led by women on the ideals of Savitri Bai and Fatima – the two revolutionary women who worked till death for women’s education and their upliftment.
BJP MP Parvesh Verma said, “Lakhs of people gather there (Shaheen Bagh). People of Delhi will have to think and take a decision. They’ll enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, kill them.” Their leaders used “fear of rape as a campaign message” during the ongoing Delhi poll rallies. Few others made derogatory remarks by saying that the protesting women take ₹500 to sit per day.
Union minister Anurag Thakur, exhorted crowds to “shoot the traitors” and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said “boli se nahi toh goli se maanenge” (if they don’t understand through words, we will make them understand through bullets.) For both of them “traitors” were the peacefully protesting women. Not long time back their ministers took out a rally in support of the rapists of Asifa Bano. The party also includes rapists like Kuldeep Sengar.
Women in India no doubt live under a deep sense of fear. Recently, the UK advised their women citizens to take care of themselves while they go to India since it’s a dangerous country for women. The so-called nationalists should be ashamed of what they have done to the international reputation of the country.The rising gruesome crime rate against women and a complete disrespect towards them while they try to bring a change is what is being offered to half of the population in India. While harassers and rapists exercise full impunity from law and state, women are subjected to the worst in matters ranging from education to employment to everyday living.
This is exactly what Manusmriti would want for women. This year’s International Women’s Day which witnessed a rejection of a hyper-masculine and patriarchal government unwilling to listen is a good sign for the struggle which aims to achieve freedom from patriarchy. The struggle for equal rights, justice and most importantly, self-respect shall continue!
– Damni Kain,
Delhi University student