BENGALURU: Mahatma Gandhi in his weekly journal “Young India” in 1921 wrote that the female sex is the nobler of the two, as it is the embodiment of sacrifice, silent suffering, humility, faith and knowledge. Women have the right to participate in all the activities of life and have equal rights of freedom and liberty as men. Gandhi in his Bhagini Samaj speech in 1918 acknowledged that women have a supreme place in her own sphere of activity as men. He realized that the backwardness of women was a stumbling block in the path of their progress.
Supporting lives with minimum wage PHOTO – SHIIJI
To empower women and to give her a better place in society is one of the challenges, which we have not achieved till now. There are still women who are uneducated and struggle to bring up their family through domestic duties and other unskilled jobs. Sunitha Kujur a 20- year-old domestic worker from Assam came to Bangalore in search of work. Since she was not educated, she could only carry out the domestic duty. She said, “I don’t have my father and my mother works in the tea garden. She is paid Rs. 100 per day, with which we can’t manage. Due to financial problem, I could not go to school. I work from morning to evening and at the end of the day I get tired. I bear this difficulty for the sake of my family so that I can send some money to the family and my younger brother can continue studying.”
Mrs. Corrine Kumar, Founder of Vimochana, Forum for women’s right in Bangalore said that if we look at the judicial system, laws which are there to protect women are not working. When the women’s laws were written years ago, violence against women was never given as much seriousness. Even though there are dowry acts, domestic act which are dealing with violence against women, very few convictions have taken place.
She also added, “There are so many loop holes in the law. It says the giver and taker of the dowry has to pay for it. If I have taken dowry and given dowry who is going to get me? Then it says the women can given eye witness on account of the incident but women who’s been burned by her husband and going to die will never give an eye witness to give her husband to jail. She will not give her husband to the police because they have small children.”
The whole system acts in such a way that one finds it difficult to get justice. Vasanth V. Fernandes, Advocate, stated that there are plenty of cases coming in on the issue of women, especially in family court on divorce and domestic violence. Due to lack of sufficient lawyers in the judicial system, cases keep pending. A person who is in the judicial custody should be produced to the magistrate once in 15 days; it takes at least half a day. He also added that one can never say all the cases are genuine, lack of evidence and mind set of the judges also can be a cause for delaying a case.
Women experience various forms of struggle. Sangeetha Bonesh, wife of a construction worker narrated her struggle to The Beacon. She said, “It is one year since I am here with my 2 year old child to be with my husband. We are basically from Gulbarga district. He goes in the morning at 8 a.m. and works till 5 p.m. in the evening. He gets only 300 rupees, which is not enough for us to manage. We don’t have drinking water facility, we go to the neighboring house to collect water and we have only one room for cooking and sleeping. Our house is made of tin sheets and it leaks during the rainy season. Financial difficulties at home force us to live in this condition.
Fr Shaju Kalappurackal, Executive Secretary for Commission of Migrant Workers, Archdiocese of Bangalore said that in Bangalore there are several female garment workers who are mostly from Northeast. These workers are not paid well, they are forced to work 9.-10 hours a day, in poor living conditions in a small room, ten to twelve of them without a bed, sleeping on the floor. Women workers are disallowed from going outside hostel soon after their work, so they don’t have much contact with the outside world. We organize gathering of migrant workers from different places, it is mainly to share their issues, provide counseling, guidance at their areas of work and places of living.
Fr Kalappurackal shared a story of one of the garment workers with The Beacon. Anita Marak from Meghalaya was working in a garment factory. The company did not pay her well and for few months she did not get her salary. So one day she ran away from the hostel in order to get another job. While staying in a P.G, she was often harassed by the boys of the locality. The members of the migrant commission came to her rescue and got her a job in a private hospital.
Due to the urbanization women domestics are most needed people. People prefer domestic workers than men. Migrant female domestic workers are engaged mostly in house hold jobs. They are not exposed to formal labour structures and are often exploited, undergoing different kind of molestation and sexual harassment. They are unaware of procedure for legal protection or social benefits. Long hours of work, food deprivation, a lot of work load and even sexual abuse are the regular hardships they have to put up with.
Often women suffer due to the drinking habit of the husband. The home atmosphere is often detrimental to the children because of quarrelling and violence. In conversation with The Beacon, Sr Marina Kalathil, Director, Jeeva Darshana (Centre for Holistic Healing and Wholeness) narrated a story of Geetha Mohan, a 30 year old housewife. This lady Geetha Mohan tried to commit suicide by jumping in the well due to the ill treatment of her drunken husband. She was even beaten up by his brothers and sister-in-law, but with courage and determination she brought up her three children. Today all the children are settled and one of them is a High Court judge.
The plight of Dalit women is still worse. They continue to live within the social hierarchy mediated by caste and untouchability and in extreme poverty. A case study was shared by Vimochana of a 10 year old girl, Surya who is a rape survivor. This rape incident took place in Kerala on 4 February 2000 at 11.30 a.m. Surya was on her way to school and was crossing the home of Balakrishanapillai-an Upper caste Hindu and 70-year-old retired military officer. He called Surya into his house and asked her to fetch a knife from the kitchen to cut some flowers from the garden. Then he followed her to the bed room and forced himself on her and threatened to kill her and her mother if she filed a complaint. Surya at about 4.00 pm fled from the house of Balakrishnapillai. One neighbor by the name Shivankutty saw her running from Balakrishanapillai house half naked and with her hands covering her private parts. She was crying and in an obvious state of distress.
The unfortunate thing is that women through continued socio-cultural conditioning have accepted their subordinate position to men and they have become part and parcel of the patriarchal society. Discriminations and inequality will go on; the real change will come only when the mentality of men will change, when men will start treating women as equal and not as their subordinate.
Therefore, what is needed is the empowerment of woman where women can become economically independent and self-reliant; where they can fight their own fears and go out in the world fearless, where women have good education, good career, and ownership of property and above all where they have freedom of choice and also freedom to make their own decision.