Modi Govt’s Attack on the Rights of Women
by Maitreyi Krishnan

As we approach International Women’s Day, we look back at the manner in which the rights of women have been trampled on by the Modi Government over the last 10 years.

The BJP claims that it has worked towards women empowerment but the record shows otherwise. One of the Sangh Parivar’s core beliefs is that women are not equal to men and are subservient to them. In the past 10 years of the Modi regime this has manifested itself in a variety of ways – how crimes against women are dealt with in courts of law, in the treatment of women workers, in the callous attitudes to women’s education.

Increase in Crimes Against Women

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Report, 2023 crimes against women have increased by 4% from 2021 to 2022. The report highlighted the fact that a large proportion of crimes against women under the Indian Penal Code involved 'Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives', 'Kidnapping and Abduction of Women' and 'Rape'.

According to the ADR’s National Election Watch Report, 2023, the BJP has the highest number of sitting MPs or MLAs with cases of crime against women.

This casual attitude of the Government was most obvious during the Wrestler’s protests against the sexual harassment of women wrestler’s by Brij Bhushan during his tenure as the President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). Not only did the Government not take any action against him, but instead detained the wrestlers. When, in a rigged election, a close assoiate was blatantly elected as the new president of the WFI the government did ot dissolve it but kept it under suspension. Earlier this month, Brij Bhushan’s son was appointed President of the Uttar Pradesh Wrestling Federation of India.

When a 19 year old Dalit woman was gang raped and killed by four dominant caste members in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, the police and administration did all it could to scuttle the investigation. This ultimately led to the acquittal of the accused. From delaying in registering the FIR to forcibly burning the victim's body despite objections by her family, the administration showed its commitment to patriarchal casteist norms.

Similarly, when online apps named “Sulli Deals” and “Bulli Deals” featured Muslim women journalists and activists as being “auctioned”, the police apathy and failure to act against the perpetrators resulted in the perpetrators being released on bail a few months later with no further action being taken against them. 

The video of Kuki women being paraded naked in Manipur, as Manipur burnt, revealed the terrible violence meted out to the women in Manipur  Even while it pushed everyone to recognize the gross injustices taking place in Manipur, Modi and the Union Government remained silent and failed to take any action.

The Gujarat Government, in an illegal and cruel act, granted remission to the convicts in Bilkis Bano’s case, and the Union Government, by its silence on the issue, gave its tacit approval to it. This remission was ultimately set aside by the Supreme Court.

The BJP MLA who was part of the committee granting remission said of the convicts that they were “Brahmins with good sanskar” and therefore incapable of the crime. This Brahmanical patriarchy, a core aspect of the BJP and its regime,  has led to increasing crimes against women.

Attack on Women Workers

The Modi Government has carried out an all-out attack on all workers but the attack on women workers is even more severe.

The Labour Codes pose a significant threat to women workers, exacerbating the discrimination they already face. The Codes attack the right to equal remuneration, by obliterating the mandate of equal pay for equal work, and allowing for discrimination against women workers. Furthermore, the Codes permit employers to assign women to night shifts, disregarding previous safeguards. They also diminish maternity benefits by reducing wages during this crucial period and easing employer obligations regarding the provision of childcare facilities. Such provisions in the labour codes not only undermine the rights of women workers but also perpetuates gender-based disparities in the workforce.

Over 94% of women workers, especially Dalit women, form part of the unorganised workforce, and a large portion of them work as “contract workers”. Subject to the triple oppression of caste, class and gender, they are already in an extremely vulnerable position. These workers are dealt a further blow by labour Codes that solidify informal working conditions and deny them their perpetuity permanence in job, equality in wage and social security.

More than 1 crore “scheme” workers who form the backbone of several Central Government schemes that include Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers, National Health Mission workers, mid-day meal cooks among others, are not even recognised as workers and are made to work without minimum wages.

Attack on the Right of Education

Despite the BJP's rhetoric of "Beti Bachao Beti Padhao," the reality reveals a stark assault on girls' right to education. The BJP government while in power in Karnataka stood in the way of ensuring education for girls, by bringing in new rules that prohibited girls to come to school with the Hijab. It was reported that more than 17,000 female students were forced to skip their board examination in 2022 due to this. In perhaps one of the first steps since India’s independence, rules were brought in which would prohibit girls from the right to education.

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 would result in the closure of public-funded schools and colleges in small towns and villages. The closure of schools and colleges is going to affect girls most as their  mobility is severely restricted.

Despite the significant challenges faced by women under the Modi regime, there has been a remarkable resurgence of resistance. Women have played pivotal roles in various movements, showcasing their unwavering determination. The active participation of women farmers led to the successful repeal of the contentious farm laws, while their significant presence in protests against NRC-CAA thwarted government implementation efforts. The pursuit of justice for Bilkis Bano and the solidarity demonstrated during the wrestlers' protests underscored the resolute spirit. Women workers, including ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and Pourakarmikas, have spearheaded massive struggles, demanded their rights and opposed the anti-labour codes. These reflect the indomitable strength and resilience of women in the fight against fascism.

The BJP ideology, drawing from Manusmriti, perpetuates the notion of women's inequality, strives to confine them to a state of subjugation and erodes the principles of equality and liberty. This fascist agenda, rooted in the imposition of Manusmriti, seeks to enforce the subordination of women.

As we near International Women’s Day, we must unite to combat the continued assault on women across various spheres. Together, we stand against this fascist onslaught, challenging the forces of patriarchy, capitalist ideals, and the entrenched caste system, to build a society founded on equality and justice.

Modi Govt’s Attack on the Rights of Women