A woman stands for a portrait in the village of Fumbwe.

The ‘International Women’s day’ was observed with the usual gusto, enthusiasm and fervor on March 8, in 2017 too, as every other year. The print media dedicated liters of ink and quires of valuable paper for husbands to sing paeans about their wives, to honor women entrepreneurs, to congratulate women who stood out for courage, leadership and versatility. The visual media joined the celebrations by loudly airing ‘women’s only’ programmes. Women with bobbed hairdo and sleeveless cholas( the must-have characteristics of the so-called women ‘activists’) waxed eloquent on the travails women are called to go through, and to demand for ‘women empowerment’. The Social media overflowed with messages, videos and quotes exclusively dedicated to the ‘heroines’ who take on life with clock-work precision and efficiency despite the odds and travails. The radio broadcast songs written, sung and tuned by women. As a run-up to the hallowed day this year in Kerala, a South Indian actress was molested and her nudity caught on camera by seven men (read thugs) who barged into her car in the wee hours on National Highway 47, as she was returning home from work. A 16-year old was sexually abused and impregnated by a priest. Two sisters aged 11 and 9 were found hanging within a gap of 52 days in their home. Investigations have revealed that the 9-year old was sexually abused by three persons, including a relative, who is the son of the girl’s grandfather’s brother. These are just the tip of a mighty iceberg in a nation where 315,074 women are kidnapped and abducted, and 243,051 raped, and 80833 killed for dowry, and 104,151 have their modesty insulted annually.

It is estimated that 35% women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. More than 700 million women worldwide who are alive today were married as children (below 18 years of age). Of these, 1/3- some 250 million were married before 15.around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. By far, the most common perpetrators of sexual violence against girls are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends. At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries, according to new estimates published on the United Nations’ international Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital mutilation in 2016. In most of these countries, most of the girls who have been subjected to the heinous act were below 5 years of age. Adult women account for almost half of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Women and girls together account for about 70%, with girls representing two out of every three child trafficking victims.

1 in 10 women in the European Union report having experienced cyber-harassment since the age of 15 years. The risk is highest among young women between 18-29 years of age. According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, at least 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Other reports go even further by saying that 70% have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime. In countries like Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the USA, this kind of violence accounts for 40-70% of their female murder victims. In countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, 20-50,000 women were raped during their 1992-1995 wars. In Rwanda, estimates suggest that 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were targeted for violent rape in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. More than 64 million girls worldwide become child brides; however, 46% of women between the ages of 20-24 in South Asia are reported to be married before 18, resulting in early and unwanted pregnancies, leading to death of many adolescent girls at the age of 15-19. Every year millions of women and girls are brought into modern-day slavery. At least 55% of those in forced labor worldwide and 68% of those in forced sexual exploitation are female. According to the UNODC, the most common form of human trafficking, making up 79% is sexual exploitation of women and girls. In regions of the world known for political unrest like the Middle East, there has been an increase in human trafficking of women as they are forced to flee conflict areas in search of refuge. Instead, many are forced into prostitution and sex slavery in other countries. Even in the so-called ‘more developed’ European countries, it is reported that 40-50% of women experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work. According to the UNICRI, one in ten women have been stalked by a previous partner, 31% of women who report being raped by a partner have been reportedly raped (6 or more times) and just over 1/10 women experienced some form of sexual violence by an adult before they were 15 years old.

In the USA, 83% of girls aged 12-16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools. The UN reports that in Latin America, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in Brazil’s Sao Paulo. In Columbia, the number of cases where women have been disfigured by acid thrown on them quadrupled between the years 2011-2012.of the 25 countries that are considered ‘high or very high’ in rankings for femicides (killing of women that are related to their gender), more than half are in the Americas.

India too is no less mean to women living within her borders. 70% of Indian women are victims of domestic violence. The National Crime Records Bureau reveals that a crime is committed against a woman every three minutes. A woman is raped every 29 minutes. Dowry death occurs in every 77 minutes. In every nine minutes, she is suffering cruelty in the hands of her husband or relatives. Female feticide and infanticide are rampant in parts of the country even today. Life for women is therefore no bed of roses on this planet, in this nation or state.

What is the big deal about celebrating such a day as March 8 dedicated to women, who are condemned to receive the wrong end of the stick? There is no greater hypocrisy than celebrating March 8 every year in the honor of a ‘commodity in the hands of the

“Stronger sex” ’,  who gets away with any crime perpetrated against the weaker one.  Women’s Day must be rescheduled, at least in this state and this nation from March 8 to the day when every woman and girl child in this land, which swears by a ‘culture’ that respects them on equal terms as one’s own mother and sister, is able to travel by any conveyance of her choice to any destination, at any time of the day of her choice, and is free to wear any outfit of her choice, which is not made an excuse to have instigated that ‘testosterone surge’ in men, who happen to behold them. Let that day when a fellow passenger, man or woman, offers a seat in public transport to a woman carrying her offspring be observed as the women’s day. Let that day when women refuse to shed their outfit before the ‘nosy’ camera, for money in the name of ‘advertisement’ and ‘cinema’ be observed as the women’s day. Let us celebrate the day when the breadwinner joins the bread maker at the kitchen, and the mute wife ceases to suffer her husband’s drunken disruptive ways as International Women’s Day. On that day, let them refuse to act in those ‘mega soaps’ (that represent abject hatred for the fellow human being through viciousness, adultery, gross wickedness amounting to violence) telecast in primetime TV Channels and lapped up religiously by families. On that day, let every man in this land consider every woman, as he would his own wife, mother, daughter and sister. On that day, let female feticide and harassment on account of dowry meet with a resounding ‘NO’. On that day, let no one-armed Govindachami dare assault another Saumya inside a moving train, later to rape her to death beside the tracks, fearing reprisal from able bodied fellow passengers, which never happened, much to their shame. On that day, let rape inside and outside marriage and harassment of women in workplaces and elsewhere be forgotten.   On that day, the song ‘poomukha vathilkkal  sneham vidarthunna’ from the Malayalam movie Rakkuyilinragassadhassil will at last become a reality!