Nirjhari Sinha, Gujrat Mahila Manch
The women’s in Gujarat are worst victim … though the state is projected as a model.
Last year On 19 th of November 2018 ,Under the banner GCof Gujarat Mahila Manch more than 400 women from different parts of Gujarat assembled in Ahmedabad to complain of “abusive, repression, sexual harassment, deprivation and control”, pointing towards how the state government has failed to accord them basic human rights.
Gujarat Mahila Manch, a women’s collective, is a forum of women of Gujarat to raise their issues and fight for their rights and justice.
We are aware that women of different class, castes and religion face a variety of problems in relation to their social, economic, political and cultural rights. However, what unites them is the oppressive patriarchal structures and their need and determination to fight for justice with dignity. While women and women’s groups have been active in this fight, we as a collective have come together as an empowered pressure group for the attainment of women’s rights. In the present times when the very idea of women’s equality & freedom is under attack its crucial for women to speak in a collective voice.
While the state of Gujarat is being projected as a model of development, the women of Gujarat continue to be the worst victims of state policies. Reduction in the health and education sectors in the state budget has affected women of all communities adversely. Gujarat ranks a poor 14th in the percentage of women’s participation in the organised industrial sector. Moreover, demonetization, has deprived millions of women of their entire life’s savings. Despite an increasing number of women engaged in agriculture, estimated at 75%, women are denied right to own and control the land they cultivate. There is a lack of transparency in gender budgeting, allocation and expenditure. Women’s access to health services and the quality and regularity of them also demand serious attention as the state budget for health allocation is less than 1% of GSDP in Gujarat. Gujarat ranks very high in the unnatural deaths of women such as female foeticide and dowry deaths leading to low sex ratio (919:1000) in the state.
Gujarat ranks 7th in cases of domestic violence in the country with just 2.3% conviction rate against National average of 16%. The conviction rate of dowry deaths of women stands abysmally at 3.8%. According to NCRB data for 2015, Gujarat stands second after Tamil Nadu under Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). Moreover in Gujarat women, of the Muslim, Dalit and Adivasi communities continue to be deprived of their basic rights to work, education, health and dignified existence. They also continue to go through violence, atrocities and internal displacement. Again, while Gujarat is described as a safe region for women, compared to other regions of India, the ground reality is different and sexual violence against dalit women is on the rise in recent years.
Moreover, the weak and distorted implementation of the existing legal measures to ensure women’s safety, have tended more to subjugate women than empower them. Propagation of the dominant Fascist ideology of gender further seeks to control women’s lives and serves as an obstruction to their empowerment and liberation.
In this context, it is of utmost importance that women of the state be empowered for political participation and representation.