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2

Women Writers Fest 2017 is being organized by SheThePeople.TV and Vedica Scholars Programme for women. I saw a link being shared online and visited their site and found the description and agenda of the programme to be extremely patronizing about women achievers. I object to such programmes being conducted and promoted in the name of any good done for women. Here is their agenda. Completely devoid of any time devoted to the writing accomplishments of women .

I dare the programme organizers to organize a programme for male writers that invites accomplished writers and asks them to talk about their experiences as men in various situations instead of their achievements in literature. Why do you need women writers specifically to discuss workplace situations? Aren't most famous and accomplished writers often writing full time instead of doing jobs? What is wrong with normal women in the workplace discussing their own situations?

I fail to see how calling accomplished professionals and getting them to talk about women's problems instead of what makes their achievements special is respectful in any manner. And if they must talk about something other than their accomplishments, what's wrong with say cookery, or DIY projects or sports or beauty tips or martial arts or whatever?

Unless they either change the name of their event or they actually recognize and focus on the work of women writers, I object to this event as a chauvinistic, patronizing event that uses public interest in women empowerment to get moral credibility and interest in what appears to otherwise be an event that pretty much says nothing not said a thousand times before. In other words, a cop out to generate publicity - likely to satisfy donors or some nonsense without even respecting women as being authority figures in their domain.

The sheer insult of calling women writers to speak and not thinking them to be authoritative about their domain enough to discuss writing!

Why are there such few women bestsellers in the country?

The page for Women Writers Fest 2017 asks. Well, if a programme for women writers is not interested in their work, why would anyone else be? How are YOU helping generate interest in women writers? By using their accomplishments to promote your event but denying them the platform for actually showcasing what makes their work special?

What next? Call women scientists for a panel on the state of women's public toilets in India?

5

The Aam Aadmi Party made a huge deal out of women's safety. Women were among those campaigning for AAP on the streets. Taking out rallys. Yet the 46% of women voters are represented by less than 10% of MLAs and NO ONE in the cabinet - where most of the power of the government resides.

This is not an accident. It is impossible that Arvind Kejriwal did not realize that there was no woman on his cabinet. It was also brought to his attention. This is deliberate.

I have been bringing this up on social media over the last two days and here are some reasons/responses/excuses I got defending this all male cabinet and why I don't think they wash.

No one should be chosen for gender

Well, there is a Muslim and Dalit on the cabinet. And that is a good thing. But I doubt that they were chosen by accident. So the larger question is why AAP sees a need to show some vote banks a visible represenation but not women who comprise almost half of all voters and voted overwhelmingly for AAP? Their votes got taken for granted and no power needs to be given to their representatives? If no one can be chosen for gender, no one can be excluded for gender either. When there is not a single woman on board, the question is less about choosing for gender and time to ask if the exclusion was for gender.

Even having Muslim and dalit is wrong only capability should be seen not tokenism

If you assume that the natural owners of power are Hindu upper caste men, then them including others is "tokenism" and a handout. If you are choosing to form a team to govern a diverse city, minorities of religion, caste and gender bring with them practical experiences of realities and problems faced by various identities that are not as obvious to the "majority". This is good team formation, not favors done to anyone. If you are ruling a diverse city, perspectives on its diversity are COMPETENCE - not handouts and tokenism and symbolism. To call them thus basically implies that they have no right to power and the default inheritors of power are upper caste Hindu men and anyone else getting it must have to earn it.

Men handling women and children ministry is refreshing

Sure it is. I never said you need a woman cabinet minister to serve as some custodian of the harem. Even if there are women on the cabinet, a man can handle the Women and Children portfolio, though it may take some juggling to manage when dealing with sensitive situations. The presence of a woman brings a perspective on realities of women that is an extremely relevant competence when you made a big fuss of your "womanifesto".

An all male cabinet tasked with delivering women's safety is like a bachelor advising women on how many children they should have. Or an all women's team designing the city's toilets including urinals for men. The logic and intent may be there, but what do they even know about the realities? How many of the cabinet ministers get stalked or groped or catcalled just because they happen to be men?

This is something every woman faces - not just specially designated victims. It is relevant to women's safety. Women are the most affected by issues of water shortage - another huge point on AAP's manifesto. Women form the majority of people ferrying water to households, the majority of people using water for household work. Women are the people most involved with caring for children and the sick. They are the ones who birth babies. They form a huge chunk of those interacting with the healthcare system. Women are disproportionately higher among those taking charge of their children's education. They are those who juggle household budgets and most impacted by prices of food or fuel on the aam aadmi level.

They thus have significantly different challenges from men and thus priorities and a completely different way of looking at problems and solutions because of that. They will have a different approach and perspective on policies . To not have a single woman among the core decision makers of the government is like saying the womanifesto was a JUMLA and 46% women should be happy with what we men decide to give you.

Can't men deliver what women need?

Of course they can. They've been doing it for thousands of years. They can. The Khap Panchayat can too, if it wants, and so can this cabinet if it thinks making a big show of giving stuff to women will get it glory as a good government that delivers. It is called patriarchy. Where women's needs are articulated by men, they aren't capable enough to be among men as equals in important positions of authority and they can have their needs met as men deem appropriate and they aren't capable enough to have a say on their own realities. It essentially says women are too stupid to fix their own problems. I don't respect this rubbish. Particularly given that I find most men incapable of understanding women or respecting their needs.

The points are endless. When there is abject inequality, you cannot approach it from any side without glaring wrongs being visible.

If anyone makes further arguments worth mentioning, I will add them here.

 

7

What really gets my goat these days is the bull in china shop approach to women's rights, which has a male dominated state and society trying to fix everything (sexual assault) - for women. I am a woman and I agree that there is vast gender inequality in India. I believe that women need to be empowered. I don't see our methods as useful. I have started calling the gender ghetto.

There are two lobbies in conflict determining women's rights that result in actions somewhere in between - usually what is acceptable to both. The "feminist" lobby - which seeks to create sensitivity and ease of justice for women - particularly for rapes. The "patriarchy" which would prefer to control women. Most of the women of India fall into neither of these two influential groups.

The feminist lobby (as per my observation in INDIA) looks to show humanity the right path - regardless of whether change results or is immediately useful for women. In less polite words, it is an upper middle class hijack of the female gender that appreciates itself and interprets "victories" against patriarchy as empowerment of women (which isn't necessarily true).

Patriarchy is on more comfortable ground. They have control and it is about managing so that no women actually get into bastions of power. The best way is to create luxurious ghettos for women, sold to feminists as special attention to women's rights.

As a result, there is an abundance of measures taken specially for women that do very little to change the ground situation. There isn't a single place where women can claim to feel safer after all the agitation, in spite of a steady stream of laws, schemes, special facilities, forces... Unfortunately, this doesn't cause the women's rights activists to pause and wonder if more of the same would be useful either. On the other hand, the special provisions cannot be made for all women - too resource intensive. So you create nice ghettos of women's rights where the loudest voices are - and keep peddling the idea that "something is being done". Unfortunately, Indian feminists ARE gullible enough to fall for it as long as their egos are stroked well.

Human rights as a special grant for women

Safety is a fundamental right. It isn't something that is a favor granted to women. Women only banks, women's credit cards, women police forces (more on that later)... You create a new breed of men who "know how to treat women". You have morally upright people criticizing social media abuse of women "Is this how you speak with women?", as though abusing men is fine... in the ghetto. I'd call it bubble, except it is really a psychological ghetto. Not merely isolation, but marginalization peddled as women's rights, confining women to "safe" spaces with "better" rights that "appreciate" them.

So, your pub going woman getting molested is an outrage, because that space is supposed to be safe for women - indeed, less "inhibited" women are part of the appeal - besides, don't the passes say "couples entry"? On the other hand, the woman getting molested in a seedy country liquor bar should have known better than to be there. Because, the pub is an official gender ghetto. Women are supposed to be in that space. On the other hand, the seedy bar is the "real world", where no concessions will be made to women, and they must know "men will be men" while walking in.

Put your hand on your heart and tell me this is not so. That this is not how your perception works too, even though you'd like to respect "all" women?

The problem is the same. Drunk louts harassing women or worse.

Any woman who has asked a husband, male partner or male friend to escort her to a dance bar (if you're around Mumbai) or red light area will attest to reason for refusal - or at least serious caution - being "it isn't safe for women". In spite of the dancers and prostitutes being girls themselves. Think about why one kind of woman wouldn't be safe in a place where women are the star attraction otherwise.

In essence, this is a class phenomenon, mostly limited to the upper middle class. Very rich people can do what they like to women and get away with it through money power or connections. Lower middle classes hover on fringes, knowing that this protection is very unreliable if the perpetrator is from an upper class. Lower classes get routinely harmed and no one gives a damn beyond stray newspaper reports or the occasional case that has enough TRP value to elevate the victim to a more deserving category of human.

The ghetto can also be layered and existing in the same place as the "real world". In other words, your pub goer getting raped will be news. A pub employee getting raped may be news depending on job (no sweepers, please), but if the woman security guard in the mall the pub is in gets raped by patrons of the pub? Forget it. Brief mention somewhere if at all. News item, not women's rights issue. You don't want unnecessary restrictions on the patrons of the pub over a nobody. It is the same reason that in spite of alcohol being a factor in many crimes and routinely in rapes, you will never find the elites bringing this up. You do not want to create an aura of shame around alcohol if you drink yourself - as a vast majority of public figures do.

Identifying a risk factor in rape is not as important as retaining elite freedoms. Not even as a minor caution point like - "Avoid being alone with one or more men you can smell alcohol on, as alcohol is known to reduce inhibitions. Particularly if there has been the slightest unwelcome flirting or sexually crude behavior or short temper." This gender ghetto is selective about risks it protects from. Only some are to be prevented. Others can be condemned in hindsight, as preventing will be inconvenient.

It is also an age phenomenon, where this insistence on safety is largely relevant to young women, but kids get harmed routinely with little protest, as do older women. So it is basically a phenomenon of nationwide statistics of enormous inequality against women used to give select women a carte blanche - which is also an illusion. It is given only as long as it doesn't inconvenience any of those with power. Rape convictions are overwhelmingly more from lower classes. No one has a problem with the nameless louts being taken out of the equation.

Feminism in India is not into hard wars. It prefers moral elegance and the high road. Patriarchy is not going to give up controlling women and treating them as primarily existing to serve the male will. Their interests do not converge on issues like domestic violence and marital rape. So we have some talk about it, but no serious challenge. The gender ghetto is that golden area where feminism and patriarchy agree and create a special safe zone where those who belong can expect safety to be their right.

Patriarchy prefers handouts to sharing power.

Patriarchy sees power as a male domain. It may be allowed to others - within limits. Misogyny actively seeks to exclude women from power. For the misogynist mind, it is better to give women a gilded harem than let them sit among the men as equals. Creating these gender ghettos works very well for them. Political parties having women wings with duties to support but very little control on party policies. Women only banks - even if they are not economically viable. Women's credit cards - why give them male ones when we can tailor features and cashbacks to define their identity with shopping, groceries and so on?

And of course, women to provide security for women, women only police stations... pitting women police against men who are highly likely to be threats to women, rather than create an overall gender sensitive police force. Risks to women were never the problem. The problem was complaints about it. This looks like a grand gesture. See! We gave women power to bring men to justice! Now vote for us please. Yet, do women only forces find it easier to deal with criminals? Why would bringing criminals to book be a gender issue? What are male cops supposed to do if they get a complaint of crimes against women? The same thing as the women cops. Yet, rather than increase the representation of women among the police force at large, it is more misogyny compatible to give them their corner to occupy.

Laws that "protect" women.

While women are overwhelmingly more harmed by men than vice versa, creating laws that institutionalize a bias against men does not help anyone. It is the legal ghetto. That sanctuary for women where they only have to name the justice they need. Of course, there is the "real world" where cops refuse to file cases - or worse to make them go away rather than exercise their rights. This successfully fudges the idea of justice for women, turning it into something that is specially granted for them in a very dramatic and unreserved manner, whereas the reality is different. Nor is creating a special issue out of the right of women to seek justice as generous as it sounds. It is the fundamental right of anyone harmed by another to seek justice.

In our grandstanding that wants to make sure we leave no space for any crime against women to slip through (regardless of applicability in real world), we make laws so unreal, that it is easy to show how a man accused of rape cannot be innocent short of an act of God - effectively turning a rape accusation into something women do that men have no defense against - when it is not true.

Consider a woman filing a complaint that she was raped a week ago by someone when they were alone in the office. Give me any possible way the man could prove his innocence short of proving he wasn't in the place at all. The man is presumed guilty - unless he can prove his innocence - yet, how does one prove an absence? It is a logical fallacy we have enshrined through reckless law making that only aims to deal out grand punishments without a view on the larger picture.

There is a strong motive to do this. To enshrine dramatic punishments as an exhibition of "doing something" to "fight rape". What is essentially a social problem - the inability of men to court women or take no for an answer - gets dumped on the legal system where it can reside happily, out of sight of a misogynist society, which is not required to face how it treats women. Naturally, for this, the law has to sound like it really knows what it is doing. Even if what it is doing is creating the provision to amputate a decade out of a man's life and reputation on the basis of an accusation he has no real way to disprove. A provision - which like India's thousand grey areas will usually be ignored and conviction rates will remain low at the discretion of judges - who must face their varying levels of conscience on sentencing a man for ten years on the basis of the crime described. Some misogynists will let all kinds of rapists go, others will let only a select few go, but the law if implemented to the letter will let no one go unless there is evidence of innocence. This is the legal system basically reduced to the level of a service for women to do anyone in. Non gender ghetto women won't be able to pull it off, because cops will simply laugh them out of the police station.

But surely it helps women? Even if it is an unfair service that caters to a few women, at least those women get empowered, right?

In my view, it doesn't. Judges who are often notoriously misogynistic will protect rapists for "small mistakes" when 10 year sentences seem to be disproportionate for an act that leaves no trace. Number of rapes on record will go high, but conviction rates will drop so dramatically that filing an FIR for rape will be rendered a joke. This will additionally provide fodder for misogynists to trivialize the act of filing a rape complaint itself, and it will be very difficult to debunk, because they will use the impossibility of proving innocence as their argument, even though lack of convictions will prove that "impossibility" false in practical application. All in all, a whole avalanche of controversial rapes will crop up, giving great boost to the feminist industry, but will lead to increased perceptions of danger limiting women, as well as increasing hostility from men once they start looking at cases. It will do a grave wrong to women whose PROVABLE rapes will now be further competing with scarce legal resources for justice.

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It seems we identify an ideal that should be, and start acting like it is fact and simply ignore what doesn't fit. We want uncompromising punishments and we also want every single wrong to be punished and we would rather a few innocents get punished than a few victims fail to nail their abusers.

Yet, is all this hand holding resulting in more assured women? More confident, more safe, more purposeful? Or merely more reckless? What is it that we are achieving, and how long is this supposed to continue and at whose cost? Why is it that we are choosing a hyperbole laden decision making process rather than something more scientific, measured and balanced?

Who will it hurt if women stop getting special favors and instead get their rights?

 

Logged in to Twitter this morning to see a flood of wishes for a happy women's day. I replied "Thank you. For today and every day." which people found witty. Actually it wasn't so much witty, as it was a statement of intent.

Awareness for women's rights - at least in public is growing by leaps and bounds and I think it is time for the women of India to move to the next step. To leave the narratives of victimhood for addressing specific wrongs, and write a new narrative where it is NORMAL for a woman to exercise her rights freely, and any obstruction to it is what is abnormal. This is how it should be. Enough headlines of "brave girl" confronts her molester. If there is a molester that got away with it, it must be treated as the exception.

Is this entirely true? Not really. But then it is about as true as the narratives of victimhood. There are women getting devastated for women, and there are women who wouldn't dream of limiting themselves to being equal with men.

Here is a quick exercise. Look around you. Notice how many green things are there. Remember the smallest detail. Now name three blue things with eyes closed. We notice what we are paying attention to. And the more we notice the helplessness of women, the more we trap women in a perception of overwhelming lack of choice.

Something odd I found over the last year... which is also when I started distancing myself from mainstream media narratives of women's empowerment is that women who read news faced far more severe sexual harassment on the street, while women without access to much news usually responded with domestic restrictions, inflation and an overburden of responsibilities being the worst thing about being a woman in India - this was nearly every woman I spoke with in real life - strangely, across classes. Some had added issues like domestic abuse and alcoholic husbands. This was odd. How many were really bothered by the burning issue on women's rights in media? None liked it, but it wasn't on the top of anyone's pet hates about being a woman in India. So where was this priority for the media coming from? More importantly, what was it doing to the perceptions of those exposed to it?

I saw dangerous dependence building on male approval for the rights of women. Be it a male controlled media, or petitions for a male dominated government to provide a 33% reservation for women. So it isn't even as though we are demanding equality. The state of knee jerk "protection" of women by condemning any and all criticism in my view started working as yet another protective and patronizing cage around them. "Don't worry little girl, we won't let them say bad words to you." ... "Even if you earned them". In another words, still an isolation without women engaging as equals on their own steam.

This is a far cry from women taking out marches protesting lack of water in which many of our mothers participated. Openly, on the street. Furious with rolling pins and buckets in hand. Today, women marching for water would probably be seen as a sexist thing, with intellectuals going "Is it only women who need water?" and ignoring the reality that regardless of ideal conditions, fact remains that women do suffer the worst of water shortages, because their responsibilities require them to use a lot of water as well as be the ones having to reply to someone needing water that there isn't any. It is as though we have adopted some ideals as reality and lost touch with what is actually happening around us. Worse, we are telling men that they must make those ideals come true and in effect, declaring a lack of trust in the ability of women to LIVE on their own steam.

This is beyond absurd. While women still face horrendous treatment, conditions for them have never been better. Look at the population of the world and understand that women have managed to thrive in far more adverse histories without any special favors. Today, when they can, why is the easy war being handed over to men to win on their behalf or grant to them in an orgasm of benevolence?

It is important that evils be confronted, but it is also important that the confronting not happen at the cost of possibilities available to women. If our idea of women empowerment were working our generation would not be expressing insecurity so bad. We cannot adopt everyone. The need is to let women CLAIM their space - to what extent they think they need or can sustain. We can support. We cannot gift it to them, or all we see is a lack of value for it.

Today, if we look at media, the loudest voices decrying the conditions of women are women who never had to face the kind of adversity the women of India at large face. They are men who haven't had to face anything women face (d'uh). What access do we have to actual issues?

Rape? Our system has failed on rape. Nor can it succeed. It is impossible to do court cases faster than rape. A ten minute rape takes a decade of court time. And there is a complaint of rape every seven minutes, not counting systematic exploitation of disadvantaged communities, widows, economic misgovernance pushing women into the flesh trade,cases not filed, cases refused and more. Yet we are so addicted to "strong punishment" as justice, we fail to call a spade a spade and keep pushing one victim after another into the limelight and taking some kind of morbid satisfaction in retelling their tale and demanding justice for "this" one. Then we pat our halos, and satisfied we are saving the world, sleep peacefully.

Yet the fact is, violence against women is going to need a solution that will eventually look remarkably like the Khap Panchayats. Where a crime happens, it is taken to a group of people responsible for the community and gets instant verdict based on known facts and the victim is free to LIVE again, leaving the bare minimum of complex cases for the courts to dispose off as fast as possible. But our Khaps as they stand would be more likely to lynch the woman than get her justice and we have no plans for engaging with them and improving social thinking beyond banning Khaps, which are informal gatherings and as such impossible to stop. At best the name Khap will stop being used.

We are not able to create a society where domestic abuse gets condemned by the neighbours before it festers into a life spent in abuse. What is worse, we are barely trying for it. We want the courts to micro-judge all we do. And only for women, because they are specially powerless. That is what we are saying, because we make the woman about the vagina when we demand huge punishments and hangings. We are not able to see a sexual assault as an assault because we are not ready to let go of judgments that say women touched by men other than their husbands (and now boyfriends) are somehow rendered less. So if it was non-consensual, we look at it as destroying the spirit of that person forever.

We talk of divorce settlements where only the husband pays alimony to the wife so she can afford to live. What about her parents? They washed their hands off her when she married? Why are they not legally expected to help support her to live independently as well? This still sees the woman as a property that got transferred from parent to husband and is now attempting to be self-owned (which will be seen as "society" - read opportunistic exploiters - as public property, because women owning anything is so absurd).

This women's day, I am hoping for power for women. Where a rape victim is able to dust herself off and get on with life just like the victim of a mugging. Perhaps more jittery in dark alleys, but most certainly not imagining judging eyes stalking her through life. Where the punishment of a rape is about the crime and damage done more than outraged modesty.

I am hoping for a world where more and more women openly do things previously off limits so that another woman at risk of being refused for her gender can point to commonly seen examples and say "of course women do these things".

I am hoping for a world when we can empower women with knowledge for her safety instead of a cottonwool cocoon that says, "Don't worry, baby, this business suit will make you look professional to all, but a strapless dress invites only those you intend" and leave it to the woman to discover the hard way, when we go "But this isn't supposed to happen!"

When we care about the women we claim to lead into new thought more than the ideals we are trying to peddle, so that we teach them that while the freedom is their right, it is a right currently under dispute by idiots who do not wish to give up exploiting and it is a good idea to play safe and have back up, but push boundaries as much as they can anyway.

I wish that empowered women can engage with younger girls getting their first taste of freedom to be the mentors that are missing in the earlier generation, that speak of freedoms, but not only from patriarchy at home, but also an exploitative patriarchy outside that would enjoy exploiting "free" women for entertainment without the least interest in their freedom. To prevent many women walking into traps we navigated without a guide.

To recognize that denying that women often attract the attention of men - even random men - is not doing millions of vulnerable girls any favors when they get exploited for their HEALTHY INTEREST IN SEXUALITY THAT WE DENY. The knee jerk defense of virtue of women leaves behind those most at risk. The hundreds of thousands of young girls who flirt because they are just learning the intoxication of male attention and have no idea how much promise or threat is really there. We were that woman too, once. We went through those giddy behaviors too, once. And we aren't bad people, are we?

I hope we can become secure in seeing women as people where we can restore their right to make mistakes and be burned for them without needing to prove their "innocence", as though guilty women should be burned. So, she was slutty and unwise and she got raped. She was foolish, but the rapist is a criminal. You don't have to deny her right to make a mistake to call a criminal a criminal.

It is high time the idea of women empowerment put WOMEN first. Regardless of whether their conditions are ideal or not. In recognizing that the conditions of each are unique, as are their needs, and the fight must be for keeping possibilities open for all regardless of culture, character, broad/narrow mind or whatever.

Here is to hoping for an India and a world where women are only limited by their abilities, and there are always ways around adverse conditions. We throw the world open and walk into it as is our right. Halos and warts and all.

5

What is the importance of women in society? Those creatures that must be seen but not heard, who must use public space only if they have a reason and not loiter on whim? Those creatures whose fights for rights too are determined by men by the mere addition of a voice in support or ignoring? What is the importance of these people who cannot count on their own parents when in trouble nor a government which does enjoy talking like it cares?

Women are not usually considered terribly important. Even when we speak of their rights, there is a patronizing air that speaks of "society" (read "men") that should rein in its natural tendencies to accommodate these vulnerable creatures that cannot defend themselves from harm and thus must depend on "our" sense of honor. Increasingly this has started grating on my nerves.

Who died and made men the gold standard that decides what strength is and what must be aspired to in the name of equality? The more we make a showcase out of women's vulnerability, the easier it gets to discount their value beyond lip service.

What is strength anyway? Is it merely the ability to exert a specific force for a specific action? Is it the capacity to exert such a force? Is it the resilience that demonstrates far more strength bulk for bulk?

We accept women as the weaker sex. Yet working women not just work like men, but they routinely wake up earlier to accommodate household chores. At the end of a hard day, they have the endurance to still belt out a meal and smile for the occasional guest. And we aren't merely talking about office going women. The vast majority of women employed in India spend their days doing hard physical labour. In many parts of the country, over half the labour working in fields can be women. Domestic work is mostly done by women. If it is for another, they get paid for it, if it is for their own home, they don't get paid for it. Looking at the physical differences between man and woman, women perform far more work body size for body size than men.

Over and over research shows that women's incomes go largely into the running o the home and perishables while men invest more in assets. At the end of the day, a woman remains poor and without a residence in her name in comparison with a man. Yet, it is male entrepreneurs who more often break under the stress of odds and commit suicide. Village after village in Maharashtra's Vidarbha has widows of farmers who commit suicides who not only inherit his impossible battles in addition to the earlier responsibilities, but also become easy prey for sexual predators. And they toil on.

Women bear the brunt of frustrations of a difficult world that their husbands face whether as anger or alcoholism, even as they endure in the very same world.

What rights are men going to grant women who fight far worse odds and still have resilience to take on more?

A male dominated government is not stupid to make special schemes for women. If it hopes to develop the country, the money must go in the hands of the person improving the conditions. A woman with an income means a well fed child. An educated woman means a better income, better planned families, awareness of health, a hope of greater ability for the next generation. A woman allowed access to engage economically with the world improves the living standard for many.

Few who comment on the poverty of Muslims realize the impact of the difference between a single income home and a double income home or a woman who is allowed greater reach enriching those around her as well. Because it wouldn't be politically correct to name the women of a community busy pretending they don't exist.

It is no coincidence that Maharashtra, with the highest GDP in the country has women stepping into public space and challenging the orthodoxy and pushing boundaries in education, equality and public presence since over a century ago.

What is the importance of women in society? Who are we pandering to by pretending that women are these incapable creatures who need special favors to keep them safe so that we can feel good about ourselves? Whose egos are we pandering to?

In my view, women are the backbone. The rugged tractor taking on the heavy work allowing for the world to run come what the weather. Women have temperaments that allow for social resilience to overcome brittle discord.

High time women realized that their value is not in a look. It is in the role they shoulder and no one can take it from them, because no one can replace them under that yoke. And I am not only speaking of traditional roles. The employability of graduates for office work is higher for women than men. And no, I'm not talking of the boobs, but tested ability.

It is time arguments for not harming women stopped tiptoeing around egos and spoke of the self-destruction of society with its artificial and unequal defaults. Women are not special beneficiaries of kindness. The chain may break at the weakest link, but then it breaks at the next weakest link and so on till all you have is crap metal. The rot is the violence. Women and children may succumb to it earlier, but it is our choice whether we want to see them as weaker victims who are inferior and need special consideration or we want to see them as important alarms of a deteriorating society and pay attention to find solutions before it spreads all over.

It isn't like a man walking alone late at night will be safe in a place women aren't safe. Whether for rape or a mugging. The rot is there.

No one is doing "women" any favors, unless "society" is confident of its survival without women.

Get that straight.