The recent protests in Iceland for gender equality come at a time when on our social media feed we are regularly bombarded with news of gender violence that continues to grow unabated in India.
According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 2019-2021, 29.3 percent of married Indian women, aged between 18 and 49 have experienced domestic/sexual violence. Out of this data, 3.1 percent of pregnant women have suffered physical violence during their pregnancy. Most women and their families are fearful to report. So this data is of the families, who have mustered the courage to report the crimes. The majority of them go unreported.
Therefore, trouble in feminist utopia aka Iceland, takes us by complete surprise. We couldn’t have imagined that women there too feel violated, like us.
Women Are Not Spared In Any Part Of The World
It makes us also realise, that women are not spared in any part of the world. Violence and inequality are played out within homes, offices and communities around the world.
The protests in Iceland make us acknowledge, that unfortunately, we are still very far from the support we must get and expect from our chosen female leaders towards gender causes. The gap between real issues and leaders joining our protest marches still remains unheard of in India.
We all know that women in India are still far away in ideals of dignity, rights and their place within the family structure in receiving support towards injustice. Society too turns its face away in situations that don’t concern them. Most protest marches for justice are taken up by the activists, sometimes the survivors and the common citizens.
In Iceland, the world's first female president was elected in 1980 and the world's first gay female prime minister was appointed in 2009. But despite this, according to a study conducted there, it was found that about 40% of women in Iceland have gone through gender-based violence at least once in their lifetime. So in spite of women in leadership positions, the eradication of gender inequality remains a steep hill to climb.
What is encouraging and extremely heartening, is that for the protests in Iceland, their Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir closed her office, and cancelled a cabinet meeting in solidarity with the protesters.
Sadly in India, we are still waiting for Manipur to be resolved, and justice to be delivered. Every Indian woman will remember the video that made the rounds via WhatsApp, It was gut-wrenching to see, the heinous way, two women were paraded naked, groped by hundreds of men, brandishing swords in broad daylight in Independent India. None of our female cabinet ministers in India, resigned in protest, seeking justice for her gender.
India surely has made progress in achieving many goals towards gender equality, but we are still far away from bridging the gap between leadership and the common citizen.
In Iceland too, women have been able to achieve great success and are in senior positions in almost every sector. But in all this glory, they are not hesitant in pointing out that the lowest-paying jobs are also dominated by women. The disparity is being questioned. Which must be the way forward for us in India too.
In an ideal situation, if issues were raised with the support of leadership on our side, the momentum would gather strength. We would maybe find quicker solutions and more progress would be made towards achieving gender equality.
The recent protest in Iceland has been the largest one since October 24, 1975. In that protest, about 90 percent of women refused to work and raised their voices against workplace discrimination.
We all know Iceland for its beautiful Northern Lights but, this time, the lights are lit with the baton held by the nation's women who are paving the way for more conversations about workplace equality and participation of men and women in roles at home and outside.
Mohua Chinappa is an author, and podcaster and runs a digital marketing space called Asmee which brings stories of women across platforms.
Views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested reading: Explained: Iceland PM Joins Historic Women's Strike To Protest Over Pay Gap