Teen Stabbed By Boyfriend For Refusing Proposal: Women’s Day Is Just Another Day

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Women’s Day in India, for the most part, is a poorly performed charade. Beyond brand marketing campaigns and a flood of WhatsApp forwards, how do we really celebrate? March 8 is just another day on the calendar for us in this country, and we have the headlines to show for it. News reports surfacing today are no different from those that flash incidents of rape, murder and other gender-based violence on any other regular day.

Recently, a 19-year-old woman in Delhi was allegedly stabbed by her boyfriend for refusing his marriage proposal. Over the weekend on Sunday, two minor girls were reportedly gangraped in Lucknow. The same day, over in Agra, a 22-year-old woman was also gangraped while she was returning home in an auto.

In a video going viral this week, a groom in Bihar, claiming that it wasn’t wrong to demand dowry, refused to get married. “On what basis do I get married to her?” he asserts, standing beside his decked-up bride.

As someone who scours through headlines of gender violence and oppression on a daily basis, with today, unfortunately, being no different than yesterday or even tomorrow, I ask: What is the significance of Women’s Day in India?

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The celebration and commemoration on social media on March 8 would have one believe that the majority of this country comprises firm believers of gender equality. ‘Smash the patriarchy,’ ‘believe her,’ ‘give her a pen, not a pan’ – the timeline is inundated with encouragements against every odd that women are subjected to.

The deluge of messages wishing for women to be supported and empowered in workplaces, at homes, on the streets, in education, for leadership glimmers with the hope that change may be on the horizon. But is it?

Is even half of the belief people are enunciating in the power women wield going to be carried over from today into tomorrow? Will this support sustain? Will these people stick around and abide by their advocacy for our rights the next time a woman steps outside in clothes they do not approve of? Step out at night to catch a film with their boyfriend?

As a woman, it is enraging to see the gimmicky circus around Women’s Day in India. After being hailed as ‘devis‘ and ‘makers’ and ‘originators’ and ‘pathbreakers’ on March 8, women will be pigeonholed back into convention the next day. How can we live by so much tone-deafness and indifference? It’s like we’re living in denial of reality, in two worlds.

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If our conviction in women’s empowerment was as true as it is made out to be on Women’s Day, would we have rocketing numbers of gender-based crimes in the country? Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows 3,71,503 cases of crime against women were recorded in 2020. The number was down 8.3 percent from the previous year – believably not on account of law and order tightening their systems or offenders having a change of heart, but because we went through multiple rounds of lockdowns for COVID-19.

A pandemic is what it took to bring down gender crimes, if only temporarily.

Although this does not paint a better picture by any measure. The statistics of gender crimes show that on average, 77 rape cases were reported per day in India. The reduced numbers are also no relief because outdoor crimes have shifted indoors. As per the National Commission for Women (NCW), 30,864 complaints of emotional abuse, dowry harassment and domestic violence were reported in 2021 – an appalling 30 percent rise from the previous year.

So yes, mark an exclusive day on the calendar to celebrate women. Tell us how much you love us and believe in us and that we deserve the world. But know that your outpouring of sentiment has a shot at holding value only if you won’t opt out of the conversation for equality on March 9, and then every day hence.

Views expressed are the author’s own.