ACROSS CASTE, CLASS, RELIGION, ETHNICITY, ABILITIES, DISABILITIES, GENDER IDENTITIES, SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS, EDUCATIONAL LEVELS AND OCCUPATIONS, WE SPEAK OUT:

THIS DAY IS OURS! THIS DEMOCRACY IS OURS!

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, 8 MARCH 2016

This Women’s Day, we gather to celebrate our collective commitment to create a world free of violence, discrimination, injustice and oppression. We are inspired by the gains of our women’s movements. We re-energise ourselves to continue our resistance of patriarchal, casteist, communal and regressive forces, both state and non-state.

Today we face grave challenges: our democratic rights are under threat, freedom of speech and expression are being trampled upon, dissent and debate are being crushed on college campuses and in conflict zones, and the media silenced in the name of nationalism. Instead of exhibiting its commitment to the rule of law, the government is implicated in attacks on women who dare to speak out against injustice. Ordinary workers in offices, lawyers and journalists, activists and students all over the country including in the capital are facing the wrath of Central government ministers and their supporters who act with impunity, assured of support from the authorities. Legislators and ministers in Parliament or state assemblies assert the most backward views about women, publicly threaten to rape and kill, and yet roam free. The aggression against Muslims and Dalits is more brazen than ever, as are the attacks on our cultural and food practices. There is a concerted effort to discredit any resistance, and human rights defenders across the country are being relentlessly assaulted. State security forces, the police, army and paramilitary forces are committing the worst offences and crimes against women with the full sanction of the state.

Despite PR campaigns like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ and ‘Selfie with Daughter’, the situation of women and girls is more vulnerable than ever. Women’s safety is at an all-time low. ‘Make in India’ promises to make women workers and their families hungrier and poorer. ‘Swachh Bharat’ has failed to improve infrastructure and access to toilets, especially for women with disabilities. Clean drinking water and health facilities are at an all time low. All that is going up is the state supported intolerance and forceful suppression of the voice of the people. But the real power in a democracy lies with the people. We know our rights. We will be NOT be silenced!

THE RIGHT TO EQUALITY IN EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT, POLITICS, LAW

  • Equal wages for equal work • Equal right to contest Panchayat elections, irrespective of level of literacy. End the class/caste/gender bias in the electoral process • 50% representation (not 33%) in Parliament, Legislatures and within party structures • Equality before the law: easy access to justice, greater accountability of police, judiciary and all law enforcement agencies. No impunity for any criminals. • Legal reforms that empower women and all other marginalised citizens. No chilling clauses that deter us from using the law!

THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH, AUTONOMY, MOVEMENT, SAFETY

  • Freedom from violence and sexual assault within family and community, in public places and at work. Enforce mandatory reporting of sexual harassment at the workplace committees. Secure transport to /from the workplace, crèche facilities, paid maternity leave and toilets are non-negotiable • Freedom of speech and expression. No censorship of dissent, encouragement to the culture of debate and discussion • Freedom of movement: no curfews at workplaces, hostels or homes. Special hostels, safety and mobility measures for women/girls with disabilities • Freedom from increased surveillance and CCTVs. More lit roads, last mile connectivity and public transport • Freedom from ‘compulsory sex determination and regulation of pregnancies’ as suggested by the Minister for Women & Child Development! • Freedom from caste/religious/ethnic violence, harassment and homophobia especially for women from the North-East, Muslim and Dalit women, women with disabilities, migrant/refugee women, gender-queer persons and sex workers.

THE RIGHT AGAINST EXPLOITATION, SEXUAL VIOLATION, FORCED LABOUR & INDIGNITY

  • No more sexual violence and crimes against women by the security forces. Repeal draconian laws that offer impunity to security forces and compromise the right to justice • No more forced and early marriagesNo more forced/bonded labour. We reject proposed changes in labour laws to extend the scope of contract labour, especially for start-ups. • Women in home based-, construction-, domestic- and other unorganised sectors must get workers’ rights • We oppose violations of the Forest Rights Act to take over tribal lands and resources for corporate benefit in the name of development • Dignity for manual scavengers through proper implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules 2013 • Decriminalisation of sex work. Sex workers rights groups must be central to all discussions on laws, policies and social entitlements that impact them.

THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION, FREEDOM FROM RELIGION AND FUNDAMENTALISMS

  • We condemn all violence in the name of religion.  No more caste, communal or ethnic violence – whether in Dadri, Delhi, Aligarh, Muzzaffarnagar, Atali, Haryana, or Kashmir • No more ‘ghar wapsi’. We have the right to believe, profess, practice any religion, to enter places of worship, manage religious affairs • We have the right to believe or to practice no religion at all • We resist all kinds of fundamentalist forces. We reject their attempts to control our lives.

CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS TO DIVERSITY & PLURALITY

  • We oppose ‘intolerance’ of diversity and plurality of our cultures. We affirm each one’s right to their cultural, religious and dietary practices. We will not allow right-wing forces to turn this into a casteist, patriarchal Hindu nation. • In educational institutions, we demand gender sensitive content and curriculumDisability based discrimination in educational institutions must end, and accessible facilities and infrastructure for women and girls with disabilities be put in place • We stand against privatisation of education that is preventing its reach as a basic right to all • Mahila Samakhya should remain under the Department of Education, Ministry of HRD for the empowerment of marginalised women • Effective implementation of the Right to Education • There must be proper implementation of caste-based reservation, and support systems for first generation learners is essential. Caste discrimination in educational institutions and workplaces must go! • Educational institutions cannot be controlled by fundamentalists who promote narrow and conservative definitions of nationhood and culture • Without an atmosphere of debate and dissent, the idea of education for gender equality as promoted in “Beti bachao, beti padhao” is meaningless!

THE RIGHT TO CONSTITUTIONAL REMEDIES IS OURS!

  • WE ARE AGAINST DEATH PENALTY FOR ANY CRIMERepeal UAPA, AFSPA and other draconian laws accompanied by demilitarisation, especially in the Northeastern states, Kashmir and Chhattisgarh • Recognise marital rape and caste-based/ethnic violence on women as crimes and include them in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 • Effective application of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act • Section 377 that criminalises adult consensual same sex relations must go! • The NALSA judgment (recognition of the Constitutional rights of transgender persons) must be implemented immediately.

THE RIGHT TO LIFE, GOOD HEALTH, SAFETY, FOOD SECURITY, EMPLOYMENT

  • WOMEN’S HEALTH MUST NOT BE LIMITED TO MATERNITY AND REPRODUCTIONStop unethical testing of hazardous contraceptives and vaccines on women and girls in India • No more forced sterilizations, especially for women with intellectual and psycho-social disabilitiesWe affirm the sexual and reproductive health rights of women with disabilities • Comprehensive health services must be universally available, without stigma or discrimination, and be accessible irrespective of the ability to pay • Review the National Food Security Act to ensure that PDS is improved and ensured for the people who most need it. Food and housing security for all, especially the most vulnerable • No rollback of people-centred schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme • Assert our rights to clean environment, water, education, livelihood, shelter and safety.

THE RIGHT TO LIFE WITH DIGNITY AND WITHOUT FEAR IS OUR MOST FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT!

AURAT KI AWAAZ UTHI HAI, YE JANTANTRA HAMARA HAI!

**Nari Mukti Zindabad**   **Nari Ekta Zindabad**

Endorsed by many women’s organisations including: Young Women’s Christian Association – Delhi, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, TARSHI, Swastika Mahila Samiti, Society for Labour & Development, Samarthyam, Sama, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, Rashtriya Dalit Mahila Andolan, RAHI Foundation, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, NoMore Campaign, Nirantar, National Federation of Indian Women, NAB – Centre for Blind Women, Joint Women’s Programme, Feminist Approach to Technology, feminisminindia.com, Deaf Way Foundation, Centre for Advocacy & Research, Azad Foundation, All India Progressive Women’s Association, All India Democratic Women’s Association, Action India, and many individuals.

Also read: Aath March, Saath March! International Women’s Day 2015 Pamphlet

Also see: ‘Aath March, Saath March’: International Women’s Day 2015 In Photos

Follow the Facebook event page and the hashtag #8MarDelhi16 for more updates.

Leave a Reply