Statement of the Lok Raj Sangathan

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On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Lok Raj Sangathan conveys its greetings to all women and wishes all success to their strivings for a better future, for a society without discrimination, with equal rights for all women and men!

As we celebrate the International Women’s Day this year, we have gone through two years of the devastation caused by the Covid pandemic. The pandemic has impacted different sections of society in different ways. On the one hand, many big mulitnationals and corporate houses benefited by the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic and new norms set by the pandemic to make super profits and increase their overall wealth and market share. On the other hand, millions of the masses of people were affected adversely. In this respect, the pandemic placed a burden on women even heavier than that of men. While women as workers, farmers and small producers were affected terribly like their men, they had to bear the additional burden of looking after their children and other family members.

Women bear the brunt of unemployment and rising prices. A large section of women are overworked with household duties, and dependent on their men for money to run the house. Their contribution to the family is not only unpaid labour but also unaccounted labour. Their sisters who are employed outside home are underpaid, over exploited and the first to be thrown out of work during an economic downturn.

Various taboos and restrictions limit women’s right to free speech, and the right to organise. They are at the receiving end of violence and sexual harassment at the workplace and domestic violence inside the home..

In recent years, lakhs of women have come out on the streets fighting for their economic and political rights. Women in various parts of the country have raised their voice against state terrorism and communal violence. They have fought against caste prejudices and their right to marry a partner of their choice. Women workers in the health and education sectors have opposed the super exploitation that they experience when they are hired as volunteers for a honorarium. They stood foremost in the agitations against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the farm bills. This they have done is spite of the fact they have been pushed to the margins of economic and political power due to societal norms and absence of protective legislation. Even today a large proportion of women in the workforce are casual or temporary labourers, deprived of regular income and other benefits.

Decades of positive discrimination, reservation in schools and jobs, and protective legislation have done very little to improve the status of women. The Indian State refuses to accept that the continued exploitation and oppression of women and their second class status is the result of the prevailing economic system and policies of successive governments. They put the blame on men. They tell women that it is their husbands, fathers, brothers and colleagues who are the cause of all their problems. Those in power have repeatedly denied that it is the powerlessness of the vast majority of women and men which has kept alive all forms of oppression of women, old and new.

Whenever women have stood shoulder to shoulder with their men and fought for economic and political change, it has contributed to the advance of society. More than 200 years back, women joined their hands with men, in the fight for an eight hour working day and for workers to be recognised as human beings, with rights deserving legal protection. In the struggles against the CAA, farm bills and privatisation, the unity of men and women has stayed the hands of the ruling establishment in having their way.

Today’s political system serves to give a free hand to the large multinationals and corporate houses, while condemning the vast majority of women and men to the margins of political power. The political parties of the ruling establishment act as gatekeepers of political power, keeping the vast majority of people away from decision-making and running the day-to-day affairs of the country. That is the reason why political parties have come and gone at the centre and the states, but the plight of women has remained the same, or become even worse.

The elimination of patriarchy, social taboos and caste restrictions at home and in the larger society will be possible only when men join the struggle for women’s liberation and together fight for political empowerment.

In order to advance the struggle of women for emancipation there is an urgent need to fight for a complete transformation of the political process. Our experience with elections has pointed out that nothing substantial happens when one party is replaced by another. Through elections, the ‘powers to be’ select the party that can best serve them at the given moment. Through muscle, money and media power and their monopoly over election symbols, and a myriad other contrivances, they retain power in their hands. At the same time, elections are portrayed as a weapon in the hands of ordinary masses of people to impose their will. If that were true, the situation of women would not have been as bleak as it is today.

Women and men must fight together for sovereignty to be vested in their hands and for the Constitution to guarantee their fundamental human rights. They should demand the right to select and elect candidates of their choice. They must insist on the right to recall their representatives, if they don’t serve their interests. They must win the right to propose, amend or reject laws. They have to ensure that the state funds the electoral process and private money in electioneering is put to an end.

With political power in their hands women, along with their men, can do wonders. They can sweep aside the patriarchal and caste system. With one stroke, they can bring women at par with men in wages and benefits. They can remove the source of sexual harassment at the workplace and domestic violence, by instilling mutual dignity and respect between men and women. They can ensure a law of the land which guarantees the universality and inviolability of all human and democratic rights and vests sovereignty in their hands.

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