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Women marching ahead, still miles to go
Published on 9 Mar. 2009 12:02 AM IST
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More and more Indian women are breaking the glass ceiling and marching ahead in male dominated fields like driving taxis or becoming disc jockeys, but there are still thousands of women still struggling for their basic rights -- not able to own land or fighting against domestic violence. For instance, according to international NGO Action Aid, women farmers produce 60-80 percent of the agricultural produce in India and other developing countries. However, they eat the least and own less than one percent of the land that they toil on. Rambati Sahariya, a 35-year-old woman from Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh, is one of the many concerned about her land rights which she is denied. This is especially important since she belongs to the Sahariya community, a primitive tribal group in which it is common for men to marry twice. “We women don’t have ownership rights of our land that we work on. If the government cannot ensure us that, then what will happen if our husbands get married again and desert us? What will we live on and how will we manage our children’s lives?” she asked. Rambati was in the capital for a function organised by Action Aid to mark International Women’s Day Sunday. Without land security, it is difficult for women to borrow money to buy seeds or fertilizers for farming. While non-governmental bodies are fighting to ensure such women their basic rights of livelihood and changes are being felt, other organisations like the All India Forgotten Women (AIFW) and Mothers and Sisters Initiative (MASI) are fighting to get justice to women who have been wronged at the hands of law. Taking their demands to the National Commission for Women (NCW), MASI and AIFW staged a protest in front of the NCW office Sunday morning. Anupama Singh of MASI said that an amendment in laws like the Domestic Violence Act is required so that innocent men and women are not harassed. “It has been seen that a large number of cases of harassment filed by women in the name of dowry harassment and domestic violence are false. But there is no penalty for perjury -- which is unfair. “The Domestic Violence Act, in particular, is very easily misused and has a lot of loopholes. What we demand is that there should be strict penalty if a person is found to be falsely accusing somebody else for harassment, which is not the case now. Laws should be gender-just,” Singh told IANS. But even amid these struggles for gender equality, there are stories of hope - like that of a tribal girl in Bihar donning the cap of a bee keeper, otherwise a male dominated profession, and a group of aged women setting up an old age home - to look up to on International Women’s Day.

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