What we would have liked to see 2016 deliver in the context of women's issues, rights, and empowerment.
2016 was a year of some great hits — from Michelle Obama slamming President-elect Trump in her speech at a campaign rally in New Hampshire and Indian sportswomen showing their mettle at the Rio Olympics, to Sheryl Sandberg’s speech about the challenges of being a single mother and female pilots being accepted into the Indian Air Force's fighter squadrons for the very first time.
While we celebrate the victories, the battle for women's rights, equality, and empowerment still continues. There are a lot more changes we would like to see. If we look at this year itself, there were things we spoke about but did not see happening. Here is a list of things we would have liked to see make news in 2016:
Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman President of the US
Though Hillary Clinton came with her own baggage and was far from perfect, her victory would have shaken things up in America. A woman driving one of the largest democracies in the world and sitting in the Oval office would have been a pleasant change. Though she missed the bus, she won the popular vote. Her running for president inspired other women and showed them that they too could cast the net of their dreams wider and aim for the highest office.
Triple talaq no more
Saying ‘talaq’ thrice ends a marriage. Prof Zakia Soman, a social activist and founder of the Mumbai-based Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), compiled a report which chronicles nearly 100 cases of triple talaq. The findings show that 59 percent of women reported having been unilaterally divorced just because their husbands uttered the word ‘talaq’ thrice.
While the massive debate triple talaq generated was definitely a good thing, we would have liked to see an end to it. The fight is on and the Muslim women who have been at the receiving end continue to seek justice.
Burkini or bikini — nothing is banned
The French government banned the burkini on some beaches, while a woman in Saudi Arabia generated a hue and cry when she posted a picture sans hijab. Both these issues garnered public support on social media.
The question is, why should anyone decide what women wear? It is about personal freedom and choice, whether it is to wear a bikini, burkini, burqa, or go without. It is all about the woman making a decision about what makes her comfortable.
Salman Khan apologises for his remarks
Given his superstar status and large fan following, Salman Khan’s rape remarks hurt. For an individual who yields so much influence through his actions and movies, this was not a good example.
The National Commission for Women pulled him up for his remarks but Salman refused to apologise. This cannot be seen as an isolated incident because his refusal has also set a precedent for others to draw from and follow.
Marital rape is an offence in India
In March, the government washed it hands off the matter by stating that the concept of marital rape can’t be “suitably applied in the Indian context” due to factors like poverty, illiteracy, and religious beliefs.
Marital rape is a daily reality for women across India and it is an issue which needs everybody’s attention.
Cities become safe for women to loiter on the streets
Be it work-related or personal, women step out at night with a purpose. When they venture out, women and their family and friends worry about their safety.
It is one of the primary challenges we face when it comes to women. Making our public places and public transport safe for women has to be a top priority, for there has to come a time when women, like men, can walk the streets without having to be afraid.
Can we look forward to it in another year, another decade, or perhaps a century?
Solo woman-led company makes it to the unicorn list
We sure would like to see a solely woman-led company on the unicorn list. In the Indian startup ecosystem, funding is a challenge irrespective of gender; however, women also have to field questions about marriage and children, unlike their male counterparts.
Given that the ecosystem is marred by gender differences, it is a tough challenge but we would love to see the women take the bait and rise to the challenge.
Women’s Reservation Bill revived
The Women’s Reservation Bill or the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill of 2008, was passed by the Rajya Sabha but the Lok Sabha never voted on it. It lapsed in 2014 after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
From boardrooms to Parliament, the percentage of women is low, and this bill was to be one of the ways to have more women at the decision-making level. An increased number of women at the decision-making level means women's issues will get more attention. More inclusion will only lead to more and better solutions.
While when the US will get its first female president is a question only time can answer, some other headlines we would have liked can actually become a reality soon — the Women's Reservation Bill can be picked by MLAs and presented into the Parliament, and along with it the issue of marital rape and triple talaq can receive attention, and even resolution, in 2017.
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- United States
- Sheryl Sandberg
- Salman Khan
- Saudi Arabia
- Family law
- National Commission for Women
- women's rights
- Michelle Obama
- Hillary clinton
- Women in India
- Zakia Soman
- marital rape
- Indian airforce
- Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
- Conflict of divorce laws