By Sonika Rahman, New Age Islam
Every girl has a wish of getting educated. She longs for opportunities of learning and going to school. But many of them are not that fortunate. The day my brother was born should have been the sweetest day of my life but it turned to be the opposite. I was no longer allowed to go to school. Because of the increased household responsibilities, I was told to stay at home and take care of them.
On the night of his birth, while the whole family was celebrating, I had to go to my uncle's house to bake more bread. I didn't know a young man was there, in the empty house. He took advantage of the situation. He did things that I didn't understand. He touched my chest. Before I could realise as to what was happening, I was gagged and I was being raped. I was having trouble walking back home. I felt like getting fainted.
These situations are not new for villages. Young girls are sexually tortured, raped, murdered and burnt. No one was able to trace them once they disappear.
In my case, all he did was asked for forgiveness and was let go as it was most appropriate to avoid letting others know what had happened. He didn't get any punishment even though he ruined a life. In our rural world, if a woman was not chaste, she was not worthy of marriage. People forget such things for their convenience but the victim never does. The accused get married and live a happy life and the victim has nothing but curse everywhere. She has to blame her fate. Sexual assaults happen every now and then. And every time it is the victim who is punished with a lifelong trauma.
Since my early childhood days I had the agony of watching my father beating my mother. My father’s abusive habits and my mother’s ability to bear silently was no secret for the entire family. I have seen my mother trying every bit to make my father happy. She used to be awakened till father returned from office, not before midnight. This life and this routine of bearing all the brunt of the husbands were not limited to my mother alone.
This is prevalent in the whole of our society, irrespective of rural or urban background. I never did understand why women bear all such inhuman acts. Why no voice is raised against this inhuman treatment of women.
Women folk must take lesson from history books which are full of the stories of bravery of queens and politicians like Razia Sultana, Rani of Jhansi, Sarojini Naidu, Indira Gandhi, Magret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto and many more. These brave women are exemplary for motivation to fight against injustices being done against women. The slogan of women empowerment will remain a dream unless women themselves do not come forward and fight for their rights be it their parents during their childhood or any other person of the society who takes them to be a member of the weaker section.
During the ages of Burqa and Purdah also women have shown their skill of management and administration by running big united families. Men did not use to be concerned with the household problems. Every decision on the home front used to be taken by women.
Compassion, love, affection, tender-heartedness, caring nature and concern for others are some of the God’s gift to women. Though some women have shown their mettle yet a large number of them have to sharpen their leadership qualities and use it for the women empowerment. Empowerment of women is the prerequisite to transform a developing country into a developed one.
We all know that lots of things that are being done in the name of women empowerment and lot of resources are being spent in this direction but it is happening on papers only and on the ground level situation is rather getting worst from bad.
The fact remains; we are one of the worst in terms of gender equality rankings. Women are discriminated and marginalized at every level of the society whether it is social participation, economic opportunities, economic participation, political participation, access to education or access to nutrition and reproductive health care.
A significant number of people in the society still consider women as sex objects. Gender disparity is high, crimes against women are increasing and violence against women is all time high even as in most of the cases these go unreported.
Dowry is another social evil. This is an evil which is swallowing a good number of innocent lives. Dowry related harassment and death cases are increasing and are profoundly manifesting in the urban population. Workplace harassment of women is another phenomenon which is rapidly increasing as more women join the workforce. Teen marriages are still taking place in large numbers. The number of girls going to school is abysmally low and decreasing with every passing day. Many girls who join the school drop outs by the age of puberty get married and live a life of drudgery. Female foeticide and infanticide is staring the nation in the eyes as one of the biggest social crisis.
All this is happening despite the fact that there are number of programmes and policy initiatives that are being run by the government and other bodies. The year 2001 was declared as the National policy for empowerment of women year. In this background it is the right time to ask, whether we are moving in the right direction and where do we stand as far as actions towards women empowerment policies and programmes are concerned.