February 23, 2020

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2020: Women’s ‘Jail Bharo’ on March 6

A R Sindhu

The 16th conference of CITU decided to take the lead in intensifying struggles and to organise a massive ‘Jail Bharo’ of working women on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020. March 8, 2020 being a Sunday, it was decided to organise the jail bharo on March 6, 2020.

MORE than hundred years ago, women in the US came out on the streets for their rights as workers, as citizens and as women – for living wages, eight hours work, voting rights and equal wages and treatment. This was the origin of International Women’s Day. In Russia in 1917, on March 8, women workers came out on streets asking for bread and peace, against the authoritarian Tzarist rule, the poor working conditions and the war. This was the beginning of the Great October Revolution which overthrew the Tzardom  and established the rule of the working class and the toiling people in USSR.

What working women demanded a century ago and whatever they had achieved, is today under threat or being taken back in many parts of the world including in India. Yes, our equal rights –  equal wages and minimum wages, eight hours work, voting rights – all are under severe threat and the safety and freedom of women is at stake under the present neoliberal communal authoritarian regime of the RSS-BJP.

Violence against women has crossed all limits and boundaries and many rapists are under the protection of the ruling classes, particularly the present ruling dispensation; the rights of minimum wages and eight hour work are taken away by labour law changes; the work participation rate of women is the lowest now and the unpaid labour of women the highest; the Citizenship Act along with the National Population Register and National Register of Citizens is taking away the rights of the poor as citizens, and women are going to be the worst-affected.

The entire country, under the leadership of the working class, is up in arms against the neoliberal policies and women and youngsters are in the forefront of the struggles to defend democracy, secularism and our constitution. This International Women’s Day must be another milestone in these struggles. It is a day to celebrate and assert our freedom and equal rights, challenging the forces of exploitation and discrimination, the forces of divisive politics.

The 16th conference of CITU decided to take the lead in intensifying struggles and to organise a massive ‘Jail Bharo’ of working women on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020. March 8, 2020 being a Sunday, it was decided to organise the jail bharo on March 6, 2020.


The Citizenship Amendment Act and the following NPR to create an all India NRC, are not the questions of Muslims and their right to citizenship. It is an effort to take away the rights of the poor and marginalised as citizens of the country. It is not only against the constitution which ensures equality of treatment to all upholding secularism, but is also asking all citizens of the country who voted this government to power to prove their citizenship of our country. The voter ID, Aadhaar, PAN, passport – none of these IDs are enough to prove your citizenship. Only 13 per cent of women in our country,  who have some immovable property in their names, may be able to prove their citizenship. The majority of the women, migrant workers, tribals, dalits, will all be excluded from citizenship. As we could witness in Assam, women in our society, who do not have property and proper documents will be the most affected by this law.


India is witnessing the worst unemployment situation since the last 45 years and women are the most affected. Now, the work participation of women has declined by 20 per cent from 41.6 per cent in 2004 to 22 per cent in 2017-18.

Does this mean all the other women are sitting idle? No! Women in India are doing such precarious jobs, which are not recognised by society nor by the government as ‘work’. It is estimated by a high level panel of UN that over 51 per cent of work done by women in India is unpaid and not counted in national statistics. The unpaid carework and housework we are doing is subsidising the cost of care and supports the economy, according to ILO. But it is never recognised. It is estimated that unpaid domestic work contributes more to the economy than the manufacturing, commerce and transportation sectors. 

CITU demands that these jobs be accounted in the GDP calculations and the extent of women’s contribution to the economy and their exploitation be assessed and recognised.

In our country, the government itself is exploiting women directly by utilising their social status vis-a-vis care work. The Scheme workers, who deliver the most crucial services to the people, are not even recognised as ‘workers’ or ‘employees’. More than a crore of scheme workers demand the implementation of the recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) on workers’ status for the Scheme workers with minimum wages and attendant social security benefits.

It is estimated that women’s wages are 34 per cent less than those of men doing the same job in rural areas, and 19 per cent less in urban areas in our country. India has the highest gender wage gap. Contrary to popular belief, such uncivilised discrimination increases with high qualifications and seniority, ie, the gender pay gap is more in the IT sector than in construction. We demand equal pay in all sectors.

The government, instead of providing employment, ensuring workers’ status and equal wages to women, is taking away the rights by changing the labour laws.

The overwhelming majority of women workers, particularly in the unorganised sector where they are concentrated, do not get maternity benefits and crèche facilities. Night work is being imposed on them. The BJP government has amended the Mines Act to allow women to work underground, in the name of ‘equality’. On the other hand, it has subsumed the Equal Wages Act under the Code on Wages and removed the mechanism to monitor equality in recruitment, payment, training and promotions for women.

Women sugarcane cutters from Beed in Maharashtra were forced to undergo surgeries to remove their wombs (uterus), to avoid menstruation so that they can continue to work without pause. Women garment workers in Tamil Nadu were given pills, without their knowledge, that postpone menstruation for the same reason. These reveal the extent of barbarism to which the employers go to maximise their profits with the least concern for women’s health. This is the capitalist system.


Violence against women in our country has reached alarming levels. As in the case of Nirbhaya, the brutal rape and murder of the young veterinary doctor in Hyderabad evoked public outrage. Incidents of gang rape and murder of women and small children are taking place with increasing frequency, brutality and bestiality. Under the RSS-BJP regime, rapists are protected and the survivors and their families are attacked, even killed, even using the police. In the chilling case of rape of an eight year old in Kathua, the BJP leaders used rape as a tool in their effort to grab land and advance their communal agenda. The RSS/BJP leaders came out in open support of the rapists.

The conviction rate in rape cases is as low as 27 per cent in our country. Years after the Justice Verma Commission recommendations to prevent violence and atrocities against women came out, no government is implementing these. Even the Nirbhaya fund is not being utilised, but has been cut down.

Sexual harassment at the workplace is also on the rise. The Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act is not implemented effectively. The government has not taken serious measures to ensure formation of complaints committees as per the law.

Transgenders are the most exploited section in our society. They are not even treated as human beings by our society. They face innumerable problems including issues of unemployment, discrimination, sexual violence etc. The struggle for gender equality will be incomplete without demands for the rights of transgenders in our society.


Women’s share in the policy making and decision making bodies continues to be one of the lowest in our country. There are only 14 per cent women in parliament. The BJP government which is getting anti-worker, anti-constitution and anti-democratic laws passed by the parliament through its majority, is not ready to get the Women’s Reservation Bill passed.

Our continuous fight for years together against exploitation and discrimination has now created an atmosphere of struggles and confidence. More and more women, especially working women and young women are today asserting and fighting bravely to demand and establish their rights. The working class must not only support their struggles but take the initiative to mobilise all sections of women and men to fight women’s exploitation and oppression, both at the workplace and in society as well. It is not the fight of women alone.

In this background, to advance the struggle for women’s equality in all respects and against social oppression, the 16th conference of CITU called for ‘Women’s Jail Bharo’ on March 6, 2020 (March 8, 2020 being Sunday) on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

Withdraw CAA! Save constitution! NO NRC/NPR!
Jobs for all! Recognise women’s unpaid work!
Minimum wages and equal wages for all women workers!
Recognise scheme workers as workers!
Stop atrocities and violence against women and children! Ensure stringent punishment for the guilty!
Ensure 33% reservation for women in all elected bodies.

We call upon all to come out on streets to get counted – as citizens, as those who produce the wealth!
Come! Let us fill the Jails of this anti national government!

Long Live International Women’s Day!