International Women’s Day, March 8, 2023, was marked by meetings, protest marches and mass rallies in different cities throughout the country. Women’s organisations, workers’ organisations as well as organisations fighting for human and democratic rights of the people came together in militant protest actions on this occasion.
In Delhi, a rally was held on March 10, at Jantar Mantar. The police had refused to allow the participants to hold the traditional Women’s Day march and even refused permission to hold a meeting. The organisers of the program did not give up. They persisted with their demand to organise a public celebration on this occasion, and their efforts were ultimately successful. A spirited rally was held, in which hundreds of women and men, from nearly 15 organisations enthusiastically participated.
The main banner that formed the backdrop of the meeting had slogans highlighting various demands, inscribed on vivid graphics.
Banners and placards of the different organisations were mounted on the walls all around the venue of the rally. They carried slogans such as – “Liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation are responsible for increasing oppression and exploitation of women!”, “The liberation of women is the decisive condition for the liberation of society!”, “With political power in our hands we will end oppression and injustice!”, “Ensure minimum wage for anganwadi and ASHA workers!”, “Stop privatisation of public sector enterprises!”, “Stop sell-out of banks, insurance, railways, health and education!”, “Four labour codes are an attack on women’s rights!”, “Firmly oppose the growing violence on women!”, “Step up the struggle against price rise and unemployment!”, and many others.
The rally was jointly organised by – National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Swastik Mahila Sangathan, Joint Women’s Program (JWP), Centre for Struggling Women (CSW), Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, All India Mahila Sanskritik Samiti (AIMSS), Action India, Azad Foundation, YWCA, Jagori, and others.
The rally began with a tribute to all the brave women world-over, who have fought and sacrificed their lives in the struggle for the liberation of women and against all forms of exploitation and injustice.
Youth activists militantly sang songs portraying the struggles and sacrifices of women and their determination to carry on the struggle till victory. There were several street theatre performances by young women, exposing the manifold ways in which women in our society are oppressed, and celebrating their spirit of resistance.
Representatives of some of the participating organisations addressed the rally. Among them were representatives of NFIW, AIDWA, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Swastik Mahila Sangathan, CSW, AIMSS and Mazdoor Ekta Committee (MEC).
Speakers highlighted the all-round attacks of the rulers, on women and all the working people. The rising prices of food, cooking gas and other essential goods and services are making life unbearable for a large majority of people. The privatisation of health care, education and many other essential services is another big attack on women and all the working people. Speakers criticised the four labour codes, whose aim is to deny workers their hard-won rights and intensify the exploitation of women, in the interests of enhancing capitalist profit.
Even rights that women have fought for and got recognised by law, are blatantly violated in practice, speakers pointed out. These include the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to maternity leave and child care facilities, etc. The capitalist employers regard these as additional costs which cut into their profits. There are no mechanisms to enforce these rights and no punishment for the employers who violate these rights. Speakers condemned the various feudal and backward practices, including caste discrimination, that enslave women. They denounced the growing violence on women. They condemned the nexus among the authorities, the police and the criminal political parties, as a result of which such crimes are on the rise. Speakers severely criticised the state-organised communal violence and state terror, meant to terrorise people into submission and to divide the unity of the fighting women and men.
Many speakers expressed the view that every government, no matter of which political party, works to implement the agenda of the biggest corporate houses. Laws and major policy decisions are made to serve their interests. People have neither the power to hold our elected representatives to account, nor to recall them. We have no power to make laws and policies in our interests. Speakers raised the question — Can women hope for a change in their conditions, if there is a change in government? Many were of the opinion that women cannot achieve their liberation as long as this system of capitalist exploitation continues, no matter which political party serving the capitalist class comes to power.
Speakers called upon women, to fight shoulder to shoulder with all the oppressed, for an end to their oppression. A powerful appeal was issued at the rally, for women to come forward and fight for a society in which there will be no exploitation, oppression or discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, class etc. and in which the state will be duty-bound to ensure the well-being and security of all.