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Every Day is Women’s Day! Does it Call for Celebration or Grief?

I am overwhelmed with my daughters who have made me proud. The enterprising Kalpana Chawla, the daring Kiran Bedi, the ingenious Indira Nooyi, Arundati Roy social activist and writer, other activists Medha Patkar and Mary Roy, Smt. Indu Jain chairperson of the Times Group, Aruna Roy the Magsaysay award winner, Sudha Chandran the dancer who followed her passion in spite of her disabilities, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle who woo the world with unforgettable melodies, and Sister Nirmala who followed in the footsteps of Mother Theresa. Then there is Dadi Janki, the founding member of the Brahma Kumaris who exemplified discipline and spiritual growth that inspired millions, Baby Palak, the 13 year old uses her voice to support children in need, Ruth Manorama, a social activist who remains etched as India's most effective organizer of and advocate for Dalit women, and many others.

I also fondly recount the tales of those daughters who did not feature big in headlines, or those who never got even a mere mention, Maya, the courageous mother who donated her liver to her son, making it the first successful liver transplantation in South India, Deepramani, who did not lose heart, when her husband deserted her, instead started a small idly shop to raise her four sons, and Neerja Bhanot, the brave 23-year-old air hostess who, risked her own life to save the lives of three children. Today, my daughters have a presence in the parliament house, they ride the skies, teach in schools, manage offices, and cook in restaurants, run businesses and banks. My daughters are home-makers, working women, nurturing mothers, loving wives, commendable sisters, caring daughters, considerate friends, and good human beings.

While these are warm memories, I shudder at the very thought of what few of my other daughters have and a many more continue to endure. A daughter who was brutally manhandled in a moving bus, whose psychological wounds and shame out beat her physical trauma. Daughters subjected to violence and injustice, deprived of basic necessities, rights and education, daughters who face discrimination at home and at workplace. Even tender age has not been spared. In spite of the rights bestowed on women by the constitution of India, a good number of my daughters are ill-treated, deprived of these rights; rights to life and personal liberty. In many sections of the society, my daughters are considered as a physically, physiologically and psychologically weaker sex. In fact, there has been no place that proves absolutely safe for my daughters, be it offices, streets or even the closed doors of a home that have proved to be as treacherous. Behind closed doors of the so-called safe home, across the land, my daughters live nightmares, tortured, beaten and many a time killed, not just in villages and towns, but in cities and in metropolis as well. In the twentieth century, injustice still reigns across all social classes and ages.

I am consumed by grief, every three minutes; a crime is committed against a daughter. Every hour, two women are raped and every six hours, a young bride is beaten to death, burnt or driven to suicide. There are innumerable daughters, who silently bear the brunt of violence, be it domestic, physical, emotional and mental violence, daughters subject to foeticide, infanticide, child marriage, medical neglect, abduction, rejection, dowry harassment, sexual abuse, rapes, prostitution, sexual abuse at home and work places. The crimes committed by people my daughters trust, husband or his relatives exceed two and half lakh. What about the horrendous barbarity - acid attacks, where the single paucity of the woman is to reject a man’s advances, only to be punished for a life of disfigurement and agony? What about grievous assaults and sexual violence on my daughters by groups of drunken men? Allegations of notoriety and foul play as with the young journalist who was heartlessly abused in public by a group of men while a camera rolled on, despite of pleas from a single self-conscious citizen. I weep for all these children of mine, hoping that somebody will hear my cries.

Is it that only a woman can understand the feeling of another woman? If Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s mother had convinced him to stay home, or Gandhiji decided to cumulate financial assets, they would have fared well and made their mothers and family proud, but today we know Gandhiji is Mahatma and Roy has made his Motherland stand tall. Why should only a father understand his daughter? A husband, his wife, or a brother, his sister? Every day, every moment, I search for answers and instead find myself facing a wall. Today, can I say I am happy only for a fortunate few?

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