What will it be like if women turn
What would India, or any Indian city, look like if all women did a disappearing act for one day? Last Monday, a day after huge protests against the growing numbers of ‘femicides’ — the killing of women because they are women — took place to mark International Women’s Day in Mexico City, millions of women stayed off the streets, did not go shopping or to work throughout Mexico. It was an attempt to drive home to an apparently indifferent government with an insensitive president what a day without women would mean, practically, socially, and economically. The chief message of this historic strike, the Day Without Women, was, of course, directed against men in general. Mexico loses 10 women to murder every day, a fact that does not appear to be a priority with the government, while the president dismisses the protests as a right-wing conspiracy against him. Since society is so willing to have women ‘disappear’ at this rate, the strike seemed to say, all women shall disappear from public spaces. Although many women were unable to join for fear of their pay being docked or other reasons, there were others, reports show, who said that even at home they would not wash a single item of clothing or clean a single dish.
Mexico is one of the worst countries in the world for women with a frighteningly high level of gender-based violence. India is worse. A rape occurs here every 20 minutes and murder for dowry alone numbered 21 a day in 2015. There is a bouquet of reasons for killing women in India: besides dowry, there are honour killings and murder after rape or gang rape, murder as a result of domestic violence, female infanticide and foeticide as a result of a preference for boys, death by illness as a result of poor nutrition and healthcare because of neglect, and so on. Violence comes in the form of rape, molestation, acid-throwing, abduction, forced child labour and minor marriage, trafficking and forced sex work — to name some. In 2018, the government calculated that 63 million women were “missing” — not disappeared but missing — from its population because of female foeticide and two million go missing every year because of neglect. Since people go on trying for boys, 21 million girls were unwanted. This skewed sex ratio means that rape, forced marriage and trafficking can only grow under these circumstances. Unlike in Mexico, the Indian government is vocal against sexual violence, formulating law after law to punish it. Only the conviction rate is pitiful and sexual criminals thrive under political and familial patronage. Boys will be boys after all.
Can Indian women ‘disappear’ for a day? And if they do, will it make a difference? Will things change a bit in Mexico? Perhaps, but a token day may not be enough. Can women ‘disappear’ for days? Aye, there’s the rub.