India celebrated another International Women’s Day on 8th March, with great enthusiasm and talked about the achievements of women in our country. Like a structured repeated event, much was discussed on how we can do more to empower our women, make India a women-friendly nation and our successes towards women empowerment. Nothing short of rhetoric and situational lip service, the plight of women in the “modern India” continues to be paradoxical.

A set of women in India goes to the space, another rules the judiciary, but the largest section succumbs to familial obligation that expects her not to dream, not to think, not to work, not to build own identity and expects her to follow the age old tactic of holding the women in a glass box.

Even after proving repeatedly that women in India have created history, the society fails to give them the space they need, and rather forces them to accept a scripted fate.

The conclusion of few studies carried lately has left me in jittery that the development and empowerment story is just a furor. According to a study conducted by a think tank on “What do Women and Girls Want From Urban Mobility Systems” it was reported that only 9% of the women, responded that India’s public transport is extremely safe for them. Of the women surveyed, 77% said the last mile connectivity in Indian cities needs abject improvement. This report clearly indicates that India as a nation is failing to make their women safe even in the 21st century, forget other areas of development.

Now let’s go on to see a few more reports and analyses where do Indian women stand socially after 70 years of independence. The number of women MPs in Kerala (the state with highest literacy rate) is ironically abysmal. The state has the largest self-help group aimed at ending poverty, and is equal driver of growth in the critical education and health sectors. Yet, when it comes to political representation, women are way behind in the margins. They are nowhere on the top hierarchies of the state’s major political parties, have little or no decision-making power at critical junctures and are mostly handed tickets from constituencies where they have slender chances of winning. In short, their role in the state and national politics has been abysmal and this has been the case since past many years. Does this not give us an impression that despite leading the country for more than a decade (i.e. Indira Gandhi), women are still not given due recognition in Indian politics?

The 108th Constitution Amendment Bill, 2008, commonly known as the Women’s Reservation Bill,seeking to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the LokSabha and the State Legislative assemblies, is pending in LokSabha after being passed in RajyaSabha in almost a decade back.

On one hand, we see a woman – NirmalaSithraman – taking charge of the defence and creating a history of becoming the first full-time woman defence minister of the country and on the other hand, we still dream to see our women in combat roles. Isn’t that the biggest irony? It is true that the military till date is the most male-dominated profession. However, it is also to be noted that several countries, such as the US, New Zealand, Germany and Israel, have already allowed the women of their country to take up the combat roles. Where does India stand? The answer is nowhere near. Recently, Army Chief Gen BipinRawat issued a statement that “the Indian Army is not yet ready to have women in combat roles”. Whatsoever be the intention, the reality is that Rawat spoke a bitter truth. It speaks loudly about Indian mentality and how the society looks at its women. He pointed out at our society’s incapability to free women of the patriarchal shackles. It is not the Army or Rawat, but our own misogyny (or inability to get rid of it), which is keeping women from getting into combat roles. It is 21st century and instead of providing our women with an enabling environment, facility and training, we are still debating on what professional is best suited for women and whatnot.

Currently, the #MeToo movement created a stir, gripping the entire country in its wave. It seemed that it would turn out to be the biggest feminist revolution India has ever witnessed but it failed to stick to its purpose and soon lost its credibility. I here do not intend to mean that the idea of #MeToo movement was facade but the way it was carried out appeared trivial and mendacious to me. In a democracy like ours, nobody should be held guilty because someone accused him or her. And #MeToo was doing the same thing. The media trial associated along with the accusations derailed the purpose of the movement. The ripple effect of these accusations leveled against various men was having the same effect as propaganda, which operates on the principle that if you repeat something often enough it becomes true.

It was making organisations and people fear women but of course not in the right way. There was a sense created across the country that women are using this as a weapon and it’s better to not employ them or not engage in any kind of conversation with them. This was not only unacceptable but was making a mockery of the #MeToo movement. Crime against women is a very serious subject and it should not be allowed to lose its credibility by making a mockery out of it. The better and equitable way would have been to engage both parties in the discussion and hear all point of views. But the ideal situation would have been that situation of harassment would have not arisen at the first place.

India has walked a long way on the path of women empowerment, but the journey remains incomplete. A study suggests that India would take another 170 years to come on par with the United States. India lacks an enabling environment, a progressive mentality, acceptability towards women, only then the females would come into a position of making choices by themselves, for themselves. This entire situation can reverse only if a conducive environment will be provided for all our efforts to turn into accomplishments. Don’t use women as a mere political weapon, work for us and let us excel. Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day only then when we are a country of at most empowered women and it is possible with collective efforts.

Naveelah Ishteyaque is a Research Executive at India Ahead News in Noida, India. She can be contacted at

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