Celebrate Women’s Dignity before Women’s Day!

During my childhood, I often heard older women advise young girls in the family about the importance of being educated. It had little to do with the noble goal of gaining knowledge, but it was about something more practical. It was about securing employment so as to not depend on one’s husband completely, or being employable should the husband lose his health, life or limb.

It seemed, at times, that these old women were a paranoid lot who were overly worried about the possibility of ending up alone. However, I now know that some of the really wise women were actually focusing on the importance of living a life of dignity under any given circumstance.

As a child, I saw some married women, and also widows, who ran a “pooTakULLa illu” providing sumptuous meals to many hungry people, and using the money thus earned to maintain the household and educate their children. I saw women making and selling beautiful flower garlands. I saw women selling fruits, vegetables, bangles and other things. I saw women learn tailoring skills and sew clothes as a source of livelihood. I saw women learning typing and shorthand and become secretaries. I saw the more ambitious ones complete their bachelors degree and a B.Ed and become teachers. Some took the bank exams, worked as clerks and rose in the ranks to become officers too.

I still see some women constantly pushing their limits, trying to excel in what they do, and supporting themselves, while making a difference to others.

The common trait of all these hardworking women is that they held on to their dignity even through the roughest patches of their lives, and stood as good role models to their sons and daughters.

If I remember it correctly, it was sometime during the late 1980s that a strange notion of “women’s empowerment” began. Women were now being encouraged to exercise NOT their right to education, NOT their right to employment, but their “right to divorce” and “the right to be maintained by their ex-husbands”!

This new wave was pushing women to become quite the opposite of what the wise old women of my childhood were suggesting. Suddenly, it was a woman’s right to live the life of a parasite. It was a woman’s right to throw all her education and training, experience and wisdom by the wayside, and to appear in court as a mendicant seeking maintenance from her separated or ex-husband.

This new idea of “women’s empowerment” gradually began obscuring the erstwhile virtue of dignity. It was no longer important to remain positive, strong and self-reliant in the face of adverse family situations. It was more important to “teach men a lesson” by unleashing all the laws of maintenance and alimony, to achieve whatever one can, ranging from extracting paltry sums of money every month to extorting an obscenely fat one-time alimony.

As an adult, I have seen hundreds of educated and able-bodied women frequenting courts, presenting themselves as some of the most unfortunate, destitute and vagrant beings, with no abilities or skills needed for daily sustenance, and praying the courts to order their estranged husbands to maintain them.

Today, the most vociferous women’s rights activists and women’s empowerment advocates endorse and encourage parasitic existence of women sans dignity, personal satisfaction, professional enhancement nor spiritual enrichment. We have been forced to accept that this is NOT enslavement of women, but a veritable path to women’s liberation!

As a thoughtful gentleman puts it on his blog, today, “many women who can logically plot the route and plan their logistics to lawyer’s offices and courts somehow just stop themselves short of plotting their the route to their own earned livelihood and dignified living.

There are many people who believe that paying maintenance and alimony may hurt men but “being maintained” hurts the dignity of women even more. These people rarely exercise their freedom of expression for the fear of being labeled anti-women. However, this Women’s Day, a bunch of concerned men decided to take it upon themselves to remind the world about the need to uphold women’s dignity.

On 6 March, they all stood at traffic junctions carrying boxes labeled “Wife-maintenance fund”, and handed out pamphlets which carried the following note:

Dear Sir/Madam

I am petitioning the public for funds for MAINTENANCE as demanded by my wife. I believe that all adult human beings with a sound body and mind, whether MALE or FEMALE, are capable of working and earning for their own sustenance.

I believe that many wonderful women who have achieved success through hard work have done it on their own will with a sense of dignity and purpose. I also believe in giving the same education and ideals to my daughter also. I will discourage my daughter if she wants to depend on anyone else financially after she grows up. #REALWOMEN

If you think that women are incapable of working or doing hard work, it is a gross insult to all working women who struggle on a daily basis to maintain their sense of dignity. However, if you still wish women to completely depend on men forever; please donate some money to my wife’s maintenance fund.

But if you think that women are equal to men in terms of financial capability and hard work, please support the concept of women’s dignity by work. On this Women’s Day let us appreciate the achievements of so many wonderful working women in our lives and public arena.

Thanking You

These men are observing “Women’s Dignity Day” on 7 March, a day before Women’s Day.

What a thoughtful gesture! Women’s dignity should indeed come first because Women’s Day has no meaning in the absence of women’s dignity. I am sure all the wise old grannies and self-respecting young ladies would agree.

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MEMORANDUM – International Women’s Day 2009

For Press Release click here!

International Women’s Day 2009

MEMORANDUM

All India Forgotten Women (Regd.) & Mothers and Sisters Initiative (Regd.)

Subject: End gender-discrimination, legal terrorism and human rights violations in the name of women’s empowerment

In the year 1910, Clara Zetkin, a German women’s rights advocate, proposed that “every year, in every country, there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands”.

This year, in order to press for our demands that have been ignored and brushed aside by mainstream women’s organizations, lawmakers and our elected representatives, we, the members of All India Forgotten Women (AIFW) and Mothers and Sisters Initiative (MASI), are organizing a Dharna on the occasion of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2009, in front of the office of the National Commission for Women between 10:00 am and 1:30 pm.

The recent Mangalore pub incident has evoked a unanimous response from members of all political parties and elected representatives who stated that “assaulting women is against our culture”. While such a unanimous stand across party lines is admirable, we fail to understand why only an attack on a pub has prompted our leaders to respond so strongly on assaults against women. We also wonder why only women? Is it in line with our culture to assault men, children and the elderly?

In the last four years, over 1,23,497 women have been arrested under IPC Section 498A alone, without evidence or investigation, not for committing any crime under law, but only because they were related to a man. Noted women’s rights activist Madhu Kishwar acknowledged that IPC Section 498A is heavily misused, and that a significant proportion of individuals who approach “Manushi” these days are mothers-in-law and husbands who are falsely accused of marital cruelty and dowry harassment. Renowned IPS officer Kiran Bedi admitted that many poor and illiterate mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, who are falsely charged under anti-dowry laws, are languishing in prison every year.

    Is it in line with India’s culture to penalize innocent women under false cases?

Every year, close to 4,000 innocent senior citizens are arrested (i.e. one innocent elderly person every 2.5 hours) under IPC Section 498A. Many retired elders have been ill-treated, thrown out of their own homes and deprived of their meagre means of sustenance by greedy or vengeful daughters-in-law. Senior citizens are further harassed through false cases of domestic abuse and dowry harassment and denied mental peace during the last leg of their lives. More and more elderly parents are unable to depend on their sons for the fear of false dowry harassment cases by resentful daughters-in-law. The World Health Organization, in its report on India cited IPC Section 498A as one of the major reasons for the “Increasing Abuse of the Elderly in India”.

    Is it in line with India’s culture to abuse the elderly?

Recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau indicates that nearly twice as many married men, compared to married women, commit suicide every year, unable to withstand verbal, emotional, economic and physical abuse and legal harassment. While every death of a young married woman is converted into a case of dowry death, leading to immediate arrest of the husband and in-laws, large-scale suicides of men are completely ignored by the Government. No Ministry has been set up to support our sons and brothers. No laws have been passed to protect them from abuse.

    Is it in line with India’s culture to cause incurable heartache to mothers and sisters by sacrificing their sons and brothers to domestic abuse and legal terrorism?

The Government allows disparaging of the Indian family as oppressive and Indian men as abusive, and portrayal of the streets as far safer for women than their own homes.  Having failed to provide the security promised to women outside the home, the Government gives in to the pressures of radical women leaders and passes draconian, irrational laws that cause more harm than good to citizens. Notwithstanding the fact that men and women are equally vulnerable to violence committed by members of either sex, the Government is sending out false messages that crime against women is gender-driven, thus, pitting women against men in the society.

    Is it in line with India’s culture to ruin interpersonal relationships between men and women by inciting a gender war?

The Indian Government introduced the Domestic Violence (DV) Act which allows a daughter-in-law to evict her mother-in-law out of her own property and render her homeless. Through this Act, the Government empowers a wife to violate marital norms with impunity and also claim residence and maintenance rights in spite of being unfaithful to the husband. Through this Act, the Government also grants live-in partners and concubines the same legal status as a legally wedded wife. Consequently, the protections and privileges, granted to a live-in-partner or concubine through the DV Act violate the rights of a legally wedded wife and dependent female members of a man’s family.

    Is it in line with India’s culture to empower morally bankrupt women at the expense of responsible, family-loving women?

Through its anti-male Family Law and the DV Act, the Government allows children to be mercilessly torn away from fathers in cases of marital separation or divorce. Through the DV Act, the Government allows for the passing of ex-parte orders to take away the custody of a child from the father without a just and fair enquiry into the suitability of guardianship by either or both parents. The DV Act includes provisions for the passing of restraining orders that eliminate all contact between a father and child, only based on the self-serving statements of a vindictive wife. The Government is thus violating a child’s right to the love and affection of both parents.

    Is it in line with India’s culture to destroy family harmony and create a fatherless society?

The Government has been focusing on more and more rights and privileges, disregarding how many existing rights, opportunities and privileges are poorly utilized and even quite often misused by women.  It is granting rights and privileges to women without prescribing any concomitant duties or responsibilities towards the family and society. It is granting rights and privileges to women by assaulting children, men and even fellow women.

Consequently, today, there are more women who are separated or divorced. There are more women indulging in illicit relationships. There are more unwanted pregnancies. There are more women raising fatherless children. There are more literate but uneducated and morally bankrupt women, who are living parasitic lives by siphoning money away from an estranged husband or partner. There are more women who abuse laws to destroy families and the society, as they themselves self-destruct.

    Is it in line with India’s culture to protect the interests of unscrupulous women, while the rest of the society pays the price?

We, the members of All India Forgotten Women (AIFW) and Mothers and Sisters Initiative (MASI), are working towards promoting family harmony and true gender equality, with the goals of maintaining social stability and nurturing responsible citizens in the country. We strongly condemn all the above-mentioned assaults on the human rights and constitutional rights of men, women, children, senior citizens and families.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2009, we make the following demands to the Government of India:
•    We demand immediate implementation of CrPC Amendments 2008 to protect us and our dear ones from legal terrorism and human rights violations.
•    We demand equal protection to men and women under law.
•    We demand laws and policies that promote family harmony.
•    We demand severe penalty for anyone misusing legal provisions to settle personal scores.
•    We demand that balanced, responsible, family-loving women are given charge of the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the National Commission for Women.
•    We demand a Ministry for Men to cater to the needs and welfare of our brothers and sons.

We request you to take our concerns into serious consideration and concede to our demands which are very much in line with the humane culture of India. We urge you to strongly oppose any form of assault on any citizen of India irrespective of their gender, language, religion, caste or class.

Sincerely,

All India Forgotten Women (Regd.). Plot # 171, Kalyan Nagar – III, Hyderabad – 500018.       Ph: 9704683163.

Mothers and Sisters Initiative (Regd.). C-5/8, Mangala Apt. 53, I.P. Extension, Delhi – 110092. Ph: 9810452017.

Copy to:

Her Excellency. Smt. Pratibha Patil, President of India
Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Shri. Hansraj Bharadwaj, Ministry of Law & Justice
Shri. P Chidambaram, Ministry of Home Affairs
Member Secretary, Law Commission of India
Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of UPA
Shri. L. K. Adavani, Leader of Opposition in Parliament
Smt. Renuka Chaudhary, Ministry of Women and Child Development
Kum. Girija Vyas, Chairperson of the National Commission for Women