The concept of Women March is not too dated. In 2017, cities in the US saw large gatherings under the banner of Women March for the first time, protesting against Donald Trump’s presidency. Similar marches took place around the world in the same year; in Europe, South America and Southeast Asia. In the last year, places like Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Iceland and countries in Africa also joined the movement and organised similar marches.
The official Women March organisation informs that their mission is to create social changes for the better. According to their version, these marches are aimed at, “ending violence against women and femmes, ending state violence, promoting and preserving reproductive rights and justice, racial justice, LGBTQIA+ rights, immigrant rights, economic justice and workers’ rights, civil rights and liberties, disability rights and environmental justice.”
On April 4, women and people from LGBTQIA+ community from 143 districts of 20 different states in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bengaluru marched against gender-based violence and discrimination. Women from different backgrounds and different workplaces including domestic workers, home-based workers, manual scavengers, to university students and civil society members joined hands.
The march appealed to everyone to counter the narrowing space of individual opinion, attacks on independent and democratic institutions and misogynistic approaches. It aimed to take a stance against the prevailing anti-women, anti-worker and anti-minority notions in society. The participants of the march also raised their concern over increasing attacks on religious and social minorities in India and the prevailing noxious and communally charged environment in many parts of India. Film-makers, actors and theatre personalities like Anurag Kashyap, Konkona Sen Sharma, Amol Palekar, Girish Karnad, Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Mahesh Dattani, MK Raina, Chandan Roy Sanyal and Sanjna Kapoor also lent their support in this.
Average rate of reported rape cases in India is around 6.3 per 100,000 of the population. BBC reported that a child is sexually abused in every 15 minutes. A survey conducted by Humanitarian Aid Organisation World Vision India participated by more than 45,000 children in the 12-18 age group, across 26 states in the country, revealed that one in every two children is a victim of child sexual abuse case. Even maximum of these cases suffers from not reporting, thus remains unsolved. Our country which has seen ferocious cases like Asifa (Jammu and Kashmir), Nirvaya (Delhi), and Kamduni rape case (West Bengal) is expected to go beyond tolerance. People are agitated to burst in anger and take the issue on roads.
The Women March has been organised when the country is witnessing an increase in cases of crime and violence targeted against women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Absence of equality in workplaces has also been a persistent problem. Recent media breakthroughs have also revealed that substantial amount of funds earmarked for programmes like ‘Beti Bachao’, ‘Beti Padhao’ were actually used for governmental publicity. Recent statistics also point to the disturbing trend of an increasingly skewed sex ratio in India.
Social activist Ratnaboli Ray spoke to BE regarding this. She said, “Politics led by hatred and atrocities against Muslims, negligence to differently abled persons, mob lynching on minorities in numerous parts of India, inequality in wages for male and female workers in a same job, tagging as anti-national for questioning the government has forced us to organise the march. On one hand we are facing attacks on right to dissent and freedom of speech on the other the country is suffering from the highest unemployment rate in last 45 years. It’s clearly indicating to a holistic fascistic atmosphere. Our protest is not against just a single political party; rather it’s against every layer of the society where patriarchy and inequality can be observed.”
While speaking to BE, social activist Anurag Maitreyee who had participated in the Women and Transgender People’s March for Change in Kolkata said, “We have organised the march to air our grievances. The continued and targeted aggression against women and members from the LGBTQIA+ is indeed a gross violence of our right to speak, right to perform and even our right to live. The march demands our right to live with dignity and freedom, enjoying the social and economic equalities that have been guaranteed for every citizen of India.”