Organise collective self-defence! Join the struggle for reconstituting the State!
Statement of Purogami Mahila Sangathan, 13th December, 2013
Sexual harassment of women at their workplace is a problem being debated much these days. Sexual harassment at the place of work is one of the prevalent forms of oppression against women. While individual cases are being highlighted and discussed in the media, instances of sexual harassment are not at all confined only to some particular individuals. They are a frequent occurrence in government ministries and departments, in private offices, factories, hospitals, hotels, airlines, universities, colleges and schools. Most of them go unreported.
Like in the case of rape, victims of sexual harassment often do not report such attacks because they fear for their livelihood. They are concerned about their reputation among friends and colleagues. Due to the dominant ruling ideology that blames women for getting molested or raped, many victims of sexual harassment choose to keep quiet and suffer the tortuous indignity.
Oppression, discrimination and violence against women have been going on in our society for many centuries. There were powerful movements in the past to liberate women and men from the shackles of the caste hierarchy and other outdated customs and norms. The Sufis and Bhaktas upheld the Right to Conscience to be universal, including the right of a woman to choose her own life partner. The British colonial conquest blocked such progressive trends and established a State that reinforced old and new hierarchies.
When an independent Indian Republic was constituted after the end of British colonial rule, the new rulers promised that women and all citizens would now be treated with dignity. Women, who had participated in the struggle to overthrow colonial rule, hoped that age-old barbaric practices and traditions that enslaved women would at last be wiped out from our society. But alas, over six decades later, women continue to be the victims of old and new forms of discrimination, oppression and violence on a daily basis.
Capitalist development has brought women out into the public sphere and beyond the four walls of their homes. While partially liberating her from domestic drudgery, capitalism has imposed many new burdens on the woman, including sexual harassment and violence at the place of work.
The Indian Republic has failed to fulfill the hopes that women had when colonialism came to an end. Far from being an instrument for the emancipation of women, the Indian state remains an instrument for defending capitalism and putting down any resistance on the part of the oppressed. It is an organ of rule by the most selfish, exploitative and parasitic classes of society. It perpetuates and reinforces discrimination based on caste, gender and religious belief.
As capitalism grows it turns everything in society – including women and their sexuality – into a source of maximum profits for a super-rich minority. Women are treated as objects of sexual gratification. Capitalist corporations use women in the most vulgar manner to sell their merchandise, reflecting brazen disrespect for their dignity. Women are targeted by the central state and its security forces when they want to cow down an entire community for daring to protest against their oppression. Rape by the central armed forces is an everyday occurrence in Kashmir, the Northeast and other so-called disturbed areas.
While the State spends enormous amounts of public funds on “security”, women feel more insecure than ever before. The entire security apparatus is hostile to women and to everyone from the working class, peasantry and oppressed nations and tribal peoples. Women are harassed and raped within police stations and jails all over the country, and even in the state-run rehabilitation homes. They are oppressed by the very authority that is supposed to protect them!
From Manipur to Maharashtra and from Kashmir to Kanyakumari – women are on the warpath demanding a life of dignity in this 21st century. This includes women working in factories and offices, as teachers, nurses and doctors, as well as domestic workers, peasant and tribal women.
The root cause of the problems facing women lies in the fact that the Indian state is an organ of oppression and a roadblock to liberation, enlightenment and social progress. It is a parasitic apparatus that has been preserved from colonial times and further perfected to serve Indian elite, headed by the corporate houses.
The parties that take turns to manage this State are instruments for giving legitimacy to the unjust rule of a selfish minority class, which cares more about its money bags than about national interest or the fate of Indian women.
A year ago, when the criminal gang rape of a para-medical student in Delhi agitated thousands of people, the security forces unleashed repression on the protestors. Those in power justified this use of force by declaring that the protestors were “dented and painted women”.
An important lesson that women have learnt in the course of their struggle, which PMS upholds as a question of principle, is that we cannot rely on the existing State to protect us or defend our rights. We cannot rely on the parties in Parliament, nor the courts and the “law and order” forces. We have to depend on our own strength, the power that comes from organised collective action.
We need to get organised to fight for our rights, as human beings and as women. We constitute one half of the potential workforce in the country. We must join and build organisations of women, of workers, peasants and youth. We must unite with, and draw upon those parties and social forces that are fighting against the same oppressive State and exploitative economic system.
We must steer clear of those parties that seek to manipulate the anger among the people for their narrow ends. Parties sitting in the opposition in Parliament, for instance, are always keen to blame the ruling party for all the evils in society. They try to ride on people’s discontent to bring themselves to power. Past experience shows that while parties and governments change, the State remains intact.
The problems facing women stem from the very nature of the State that exists in our country. It is a legacy of colonialism, a further perfection of the machinery of oppression and enslavement of all the peoples of Hindustan.
Parties of the status quo want to use the growing insecurity faced by women to call for expanding the security forces and their deployment on the streets. They seek to divert attention from the fact that further strengthening the existing State and its armed forces will only further aggravate the insecurity of women.
The solution to our problems does not lie along the path of further strengthening and perfecting the existing State. On the contrary, it lies along the path of replacing this State with a modern democratic State that guarantees prosperity and protection for women and for all human beings.
Those who are committed to managing the existing State cannot and will not bring about such a profound revolutionary change. Only the working women and men, and all the oppressed strata of society, have the interest to do so. We, the toiling majority of people, have the capacity to liberate our society provided we unite as one political force for the reconstitution of the State.
We, the toiling and oppressed majority of people, must adopt a new Constitution that respects the rights of women and of all human beings and entrusts the State with the duty to ensure that these rights are protected and never violated.
Purogami Mahila Sangathan calls on women to get organised to defend our rights as women and as human beings, relying on our own strength and on the collective fighting capacity of the working class and all the oppressed!
Let us build the fighting organisations of women, of workers and of the people wherever they live!
Let us unite with and strengthen the Shram Shakti Morcha – the movement of those who toil, to liberate our society from the existing oppressive State and the capitalist-imperialist system!