Resolution on Women’s Movement : Challenges and Tasks

19. A powerful, multi-layered resistance to violence must be built, with the women’s organisation, student-youth organisations, and cultural organisations at the forefront, encompassing campaigns for pro-women legislation; protests against governments and political forces that fail to defend women’s rights and safety; and social initiatives such as women’s neighbourhood watches, creative campaigns against victim-blaming, son-preference, domestic violence, ‘honour’ crimes and in support of women’s right to make independent decisions in all spheres of life including education, love, marriage, clothes and life-style.

Women, Work, and Patriarchy

20. Economic liberalization has resulted in women being drawn into work in larger numbers – but in the more vulnerable and insecure sectors. The exploitation in these sectors is seldom purely ‘economic’ – gender is a crucial tool in this exploitation. For instance, young women textile workers in TN are made to work in highly undemocratic and exploitative conditions – but it is made possible under the Sumangali scheme, which is promoted in the name of young women earning their dowry, and which taps into the widespread anxiety in society about dowry and marriage of young women. The central Government’s ASHA, mid-day meals (at schools) and anganwadi schemes, too, exploit the patriarchal notion of women’s selfless and unpaid ‘service’ to family and society, in order to justify paying the workers a mere ‘honorarium’ instead of the full pay and benefits due to government servants.

21. As women enter the workforce, they are confronted by gender discrimination at the workplace. Women continue to be paid less than men for the same work. Even in the MNREGA scheme, they are paid less than men, and their work is measured in discriminatory ways: for instance, they are paid according to the volume of earth moved rather than the hours of work! They are also subjected to discriminatory regulations (such as imposition of dress codes, sexist norms regarding appearance, and so on). Even in prestigious and upscale jobs, gender discrimination is rampant. Women cabin crew in Air India have recently won a long legal battle for the right to be appointed In-Flight Supervisors; and in the Army, women are denied the right to be appointed officers, on the grounds that jawans cannot be expected to take orders from women. Oppressive norms about female appearance not only discriminate against women in general, but also specifically against Dalit and adivasi women. Not long ago, adivasi women trained as cabin crew in Maharashtra were rejected jobs in the aviation industry because they were deemed ‘physically unattractive’ by the patriarchal standards of the market and of Brahminism.

22. Women constitute the bulk of the workforce in sectors such as domestic work, beedi, mid-day meal schemes, and are a considerable section of the workforce in sectors such as agricultural labour and tea garden labour. The conditions of work in these sectors are insecure and exploitative, with inherent gender discrimination, violence, and denial of dignity. In the case of women among the dalit agricultural workers and sanitation workers, and adivasi tea garden workers, caste and gender oppression combine to create severely exploitative conditions. We must pursue the demand for the government to set up a Committee to comprehensively study the conditions of women workers, and implement the recommendations of the Committee in a time-bound manner. In the case of domestic workers, it is urgent to pressurize the Government to ratify, without delay, the ILO Convention of 2011 which has set out International Labour Standards for domestic workers, stipulating decent working conditions including duty hours, weekly rest for 24 hours, leaves, timely payment, right to associations and collective bargaining like other industrial workers.

23. Women’s labour inside the home and family continues to
be kept ‘invisible’. Its character as labour is cloaked in ideological disguises, as the ‘natural’ or ‘primary’ role of women. Even the Census survey deems women involved with “cooking, cleaning of