THE CPI(M) Tamil Nadu state committee held a convention in defence of women's rights in Thukalay, Kanyakumari district on June 25, 2023. More than 4000 women and men attended.
The convention noted with concern that miseries faced by women stemming out of gender oppression and class exploitation at home, public place, workplace and cyberspace are increasing at a rapid pace. The number of cases filed on the atrocities do not actually reflect the reality and the conviction rate continued to be low.
The convention came down heavily on the pro-corporate and Manuvadi policies of the union government which create obstacles to women's progress. The inordinate delay in passing the Women's Reservation Bill or rather the abandonment by the BJP government was condemned by the speakers in the convention.
A detailed resolution was moved in the convention by state committee member R Leema Rose, seeking gender equality and called upon different sections of the society to fight the pro-corporate, patriarchal and feudal systems suppressing the women.
Presided by R Chellasamy, the district secretary, K Balakrishnan, state secretary, PK Sreemathi and U Vasuki, Central Committee members and Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, deputy general secretary, DMK addressed the convention in the presence of state secretariat members, S Noor Mohammed, K Kanagaraj and former MP A V Bellarmin.
CPI(M) Kanyakumari district committee conducted a brief survey on women working in shops as well as in MNREGA scheme. The general response is that the present wages are absolutely insufficient.
Cruelty by husbands or relatives accounted for 31.8 per cent of the total cases of atrocities against women under Indian Penal Code (IPC) while 20.8 per cent of the cases were registered under assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty. The scenario in Tamil Nadu is also worse, as the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) revealed 44.7 per cent of married women faced physical and sexual assault at their homes.
U Vasuki, while criticising comments which put either men or women as the cause for gender oppression, attributed the sufferings to the societal system and called upon women and men to fight unitedly against the system and the policies perpetuating them as a whole. She cautioned that the script of Manusmriti, though claimed to be written 2000 years back, is being acted upon by Modi government. She placed with pride that CPI(M)’s programme talks about democratisation of family structure whereas many parties do not view gender issues seriously. Vasuki pointed out that in the fight against RSS-BJP, struggle against gender oppression has an important role.
The conference noted that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of achieving ‘Gender Equality’ by 2030 is unachievable, given the current pace of 17 different parameters prescribed. The actions of National Commission for Women were also criticised for its inaction or delayed action on several issues including the harassment complaints from Kalakshetra in Chennai.
KERALA MODEL OF EMPOWERING WOMEN
Amidst growing influence of the right-wing forces led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), promoting Manusmriti, considering women as lower to men, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has provided an alternative model to empower women.
“Recently we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Kudumbashree, women's self-help groups in Kerala. With around 50 lakh members, the organisation has changed the social, economic and political status of women. Change should start from our houses to empower women and achieve equality”, said PK Sreemathi Teacher.
With reservation for women in local self-governments, the state has ensured adequate participation in governance. The land reforms and free education for all children ever since the Left came to power in Kerala in 1957 under EMS Namboodiripad has had telling effects on the development of women.
“The BJP has not even listed the Women's Reservation Bill in the last nine years in the Lok Sabha. The sangh parivar believes in and wants to impose Manusmriti, which is totally stacked against women”, Sreemathi Teacher said.
Kanimozhi Karunanidhi accused the BJP led government of being anti-women by supporting those accused of sexual violence including the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, Brij Bhushan Singh who is also a BJP MP. She listed out various contributions made by Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu for the cause of women. She added that the implementation of National Education Policy (NEP), would affect the education among women, particularly in the rural and tribal areas.
K Balakrishnan narrated important interventions and hard battles by the Party in cases of violence against women. Opining on some of the judgements, he said, “Recently the Supreme Court had to quash the order of the Allahabad High Court which ordered to seek the help of astrology in a rape case. But, the Madras High Court’s verdict on a homemaker having the right to share of husband’s property has come as a ray of hope”.
Quoting the judgement of Madras High court and making a strong pitch for household work to be accounted for and recognised, he said, “The work of men is mostly regulated, while women working at their homes carry out work for several hours without a holiday. Such work is unaccounted and must be given due recognition".
The resolution passed in the conference, called upon union and state governments to enact special laws to end honour killings, speed up cases in POCSO and abort policies like NEP which would adversely affect education of girl children.
Some of the survivors of violence and their family members (acid attacks, MFI’s intimidation, bonded labour, sexual violence and domestic violence) shared their experiences in fighting for justice and how AIDWA and CPI(M) helped them. P Suganthi, state committee member introduced the victims and their family members.
A small booklet on gender issues and politics written by U Vasuki was released by Kanimozhi and received by A Radhika, state committee member.
In conclusion, the oath administered by M Ragupathi, district committee member, was taken by everyone that they would initiate changes for a gender just society.