International Women's Day is celebrated on 8 March around the world. It is a focal point in the movement for women's rights. After the Socialist Party of America organized a Women's Day in New York City on February 28, 1909, German delegates Clara Zetkin, Käte Duncker, Paula Thiede and others proposed at the 1910 International Socialist Woman's Conference that "a special Women's Day" be organized annually. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted by the feminist movement in about 1967. The United Nations began celebrating the day in 1977.
'Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” is the slogan given by the United Nations Organization for the 2021 International Women’s Day. The Pandemic has affected the whole world but the worst hit are women and children of the working class who have been left without jobs and livelihood. Not just this, the nation states have taken harsh measures to stifle those voices in the name of pandemic, which have tried to voice the popular concerns of the masses The latest example in India is that of a young environment activist Disha Ravi who was arrested just for editing a tweet and forwarding it in favour of the ongoing farmer’s movement. Actress Tapasi Pannu has also been targeted for the same reason.
It is ironical that even those powers responsible for the brutal murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh and the irrational arrest of Sudha Bhardwaj would not feel ashamed in issuing statements on the International Women’s Day. The BJP ruled states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have promulgated draconian laws in the name of “Love Jehad” which steal away a girl’s freedom to choose her life partner. Violence against women is at a high rise in the state of Uttar Pradesh where even the MLA s of the ruling BJP have not only been found guilty of rape and murder but have shamelessly threatened the family of victims in places like Unnav and Hathras. Despite the right to equality before law guaranteed by the constitution of India women face discrimination in employment, political representation and even in matters of domestic decision making. The long awaited bill for reservation of seats in parliament and other legislative bodies for women is still pending.
Amidst such an environment the celebration of International Women’s Day comes as a ray of hope. The history of the day suggests that it was begun by the socialist groups and observed widely by the Soviet regime in erstwhile USSR. This should be understood by all that women’s emancipation is today more than gender, a class issue. The rights of women can be secured by securing the rights of farmers, labourers and the entire working class.