Statement on the Occasion of International Women’s Day
Dr. Malem Ningthouja
Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur)
This day, that is, 8th March, is an occasion of commemorating significant roles that women had played in the democratic movements for economic, political and social rights. This day is also an occasion of building organisational strength to win the struggle against subjugation, exploitation and inequality. Paradoxically, in Manipur, the regimes that are responsible for subjugation, exploitation and inequality have appropriated this day to attract people with false promises and mislead them into confusion and opportunism. At the same time, several ostentatious public leaders, on this occasion, are organising programmes of gaiety and promoting conspicuous counter-productive bourgeoisie ideals to convey deceptive messages and pretentious prescription of nothing that could qualify emancipation of women in long run.
Women play significant roles in Manipur. ‘Today’, they constitute 49.62% of the population. Their literacy rate stands at 70.26 %. Amongst women 29.80% of them live in urban areas and the rest 70.19% live in rural areas. Amongst the productive forces of Manipur, they constitute 36.9% of main workers; 62.39% of marginal workers; 59.94 % of agricultural labour, and; 77.15% of those who are engaged in household industries. They are considered far more privileged than those women who live in a state of misogynist servitude. But it will be erroneous to support the presumption, that equality prevails in Manipur and women enjoy equal respect and status among themselves or across genders and classes. The fact is, inequality prevails in Manipur and there is domination and exploitation of the weaker, which is applicable at varying degrees to various sections of women and other marginalised sections as well.
Amongst women, the working and toiling women constitute the larger bulk of the aggrieved who are striving hard for economic survival and social security. Many of them are underpaid while working under arduous conditions, without prospects of higher dignity and steady income growth. Many are victims of forced displacement, uprooted by destructive capitalist projects. Pauperised women suffer the most under the exorbitant tax regime that robbed them of their meagre income while their basic necessities are not provided— such as fair income, free healthcare and medicine, allowances [for pregnancy and infant bearing], privacy and recreation facilities at work places, and etcetera. Oppressed women suffer a lot from psychological and physical damages inflicted by state terrorism and breakdown of civilised rule of law. They suffer from deprivation of social security (honourable treatment), which is embodied in the widespread culture of aggression or domination, commodification of body, and exploitation for pleasure. During democratic agitations, working and toiling women are the most vulnerable soft targets of brutal repressions. Physical casualty in repression and relative cease-work and medical expenses added burden to their economic misery.
In the context of concurrent compulsive circumstances, it is quite natural that women (either individually or collectively) take up either political assertion or legal fight to achieve certain ameliorations within the existing system. They had to fight either for fair wage, fair distribution of government relief and service, proportional representation (quota or reservation) or against specific forms of discriminations, exploitations, crimes and humiliations. These struggles are crucial in ensuring some ad hoc reliefs to some sections. But the underprivileged working and toiling women, who constitute the larger bulk of potential revolutionary class, must not be misled by the deceptive propaganda of ‘women empowerment’ as the ultimate solution to address their economic and social grievances. The system that is founded on the material foundation of inequality cannot ensure them durable justice and equity. Women empowerment propagated by the protagonists of class rule cannot be a substitute for social emancipation prescribed by revolutionaries. Social emancipation is impossible under the conditions of systematic depredation and austerity in consequence of national subjugation that largely perpetuates chauvinism, discrimination, exploitation and suppression.
Working and toiling women of colonial and semi-colonial nations had to form alliance with progressive forces to achieve national liberation as the only precondition of their social emancipation. They had to soldier on struggle to overthrow moribund system; to root out the system that perpetuates deprivation, exploitation, impoverishment, sexual crimes, commodification and humiliation. The struggle must conform to both revolutionary nationalism (local) and internationalism (global), that is, to overthrow imperialist policies of ‘globalisation’ and ‘development’ enforced through a network of co-opted local reactionary regimes to plunder and misrule. The aggrieved and desperate women of Manipur, therefore, must not restrict themselves to individual struggle and gender specific sectarian issues that are being advocated by counter-revolutionary forces to create confusion and disunity. Commemoration of International Women’s Day, while raising the questions of local and individual specificities, had to be connected to larger revolutionary goals. The commemoration had to be revolutionary and international in spirit and action.
Long Live the Struggle for Peace & Democracy!