Women’s bill, female foeticide, promise of toilets mark the day

March 8th, 2008 - 8:47 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil
(International Women’s Day Roundup)

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) An assurance to table the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill in parliament, put an end to female foeticide and build toilets for women were some of the promises made by political leaders as India marked International Women’s Day Saturday. Women’s groups and other NGOs held several functions across the country, with housewives and students, activists and politicians coming together to laud the multifaceted role women are playing in society. They also decried the ills that still plague society.

There was a rally of commercial sex workers in Chennai, torchlight processions in Bangalore and prayers in New Delhi for world peace and social justice while women in Mumbai took up the cause of North Indian migrants who are being targeted by a regional party.

Leading the country was President Pratibha Patil, who praised the role of women scientists in the country.

Awarding five scientists with the National Award for Women’s Development through Application of Science and Technology - 2007, she said they could bring significant social change by working at the grassroots level for women’s empowerment using science and technology.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set the tone by promising the government would table the women’s reservation bill in the current session of parliament.

The women’s reservation bill, which sets aside one-third of parliament and state assembly seats for women, has been hanging fire since 1996 due to opposition from certain parties who want special quota-in-quota for women from backward communities.

The prime minister’s promise came when a delegation of women activists, including Krishna Tirath, chairperson of the Women’s Empowerment Committee, Mohini Giri, former chairperson of National Commission for Women, Nafisa Ali, actress and social activist and Akhila Shivadas, head of Centre for Advocacy and Research.

Launching an exhibition on food and nutrition awareness at India Gate, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee hoped the Women’s Reservation Bill becomes part of the constitution before his tenure ends.

“I espouse it (women’s reservation bill) and I don’t see any reason why this bill should not be passed in this session. It’s my dream that before my tenure ends the bill becomes part of the constitution of India.”

At a function to award 15 women for their outstanding social service, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said the government was committed to end female foeticide at all costs and held that the policies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) were “empowering women on all fronts”.

Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury pointed out that over one million female foeticides take place in the country every year.

In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati announced that 90,000 primary schools spread across the state would soon have women’s toilets. A hike in widows’ pension from Rs.150 to Rs.300 a month, and payment of Rs.10,000 towards the marriage of every widow’s daughter were part of the incentives announced to mark the day.

She also set aside a one-time cash incentive of Rs.11,000 to all widows under 35 getting married again.

For 10 women cancer patients in Mumbai, it was a journey to remember as they were taken for a joyride on a helicopter. The women are being treated at the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital. The Cancer Patients’ Aid Association and Pawan Hans Limited had organised the “unique” trip.

Also, nearly a dozen women’s organisations pleaded for women’s safety and the cause of north Indians targeted by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Around 500 women took out a procession, carrying placards and banners, which said: “North Indians have the right to live and work anywhere in the country”.

“As women, we have the same feelings as anybody else. This day helps us to understand our responsibility in creating awareness among other women in the area of HIV prevention,” said Rajeswari from Madurai, one of the 400-odd sex workers who gathered in Chennai Saturday to celebrate womanhood.

In Bangalore, dozens of women took to the streets at the stroke of midnight to hold a torchlight procession in front of the state secretariat.

In another area, a few hundred people carrying placards and banners demanded a total ban on liquor, end to atrocities on women and 33 percent reservation in parliament and state assemblies.

IT major Infosys and Wipro also joined the celebrations with their own programmes.

Several government offices hoisted a specially designed flag called Ananya (Eternal) depicting the colours of a rainbow against a white background. The colours signify freedom, new hopes and new aspirations.

Exhibition of paintings by hearing-impaired women and seminars and workshops on women empowerment by various trade bodies like Confederation of Indian Industry, Karnataka chapter were also held.

In Chennai, the AIADMK chief J. Jayalalitha turned to poetry to urge for women’s empowerment in her message.

In her Women’s Day message she wrote: “This is an age when suppressed womanhood has risen and started creating history. The world has arrived at the truth that women can excel in every field.

“Still there are women mired in ignorance and oppression. This should change… Let this Women’s Day be an occasion to take a resolve…”

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