NEW DELHI, India — 2019 has only just begun and women are already taking India by storm. India has a history of being sexist and facing extreme hegemony as well as being known for acts of violence against women. However, the tide is turning, and the 2019 Women’s Rights Movements in India are promoting a promising future for equal rights and decreasing sexual violence against women.
In 2016 alone, there were 338,954 crimes against women, of which 38,947 were reported rapes. This number has been steadily increasing over the past few years. In fact, the sexual assault of minor girls had increased by 82 percent from 2013 to 2016. Sources say that the actual number of women facing sexual violence without reporting is near 650 million. Women have been barred from temples and holy sites, government positions and education for centuries, and they’ve had enough. Here are just five movements you need to know about.
Five of the 2019 Women’s Rights Movements in India
- Two women entered a Hindu temple for the first time in centuries: At the end of 2018, two women in their forties were among the first to make the courageous decision to enter a sacred Hindu temple in New Delhi after the Supreme Court lifted the ban. This ban had prevented women who had reached the age of menstruation from entering a holy site for centuries. Hindu traditions believe that women during menstruation were “unclean” and, therefore, forbidden to enter holy sites. When two women entered the Sabarimala temple for the first time two months ago, they sparked protests and resentment from the conservative party in India. Many citizens have been seen congregating around the temple to prevent women from entering, keeping many of them out by force. This movement has also been met with a lot of support from women’s rights activists all over India and the rest of the world.
- Women in India formed a 385-mile wall of protest: In response to the two women entering the temple and the explosion of protests, millions of women all over India gathered together to stand in solidarity (literally) in support of the women’s rights movement. Up to as many as 5 million women formed a “wall” along a national highway to support the recent legislation granting menstruating women to enter the temple. This line of women stretched for 385 miles down the western coast of India’s. Women all over India are using this opportunity to stand up for equal rights, uniting together to enter temples and other holy sites amidst the strong protests. Only two months into the new year there is already so much going on for the 2019 women’s rights movements in India.
- There should be a record-breaking number of women voters in 2019: In 1962, just twelve years after all women were granted the right to vote in India, the average female voter turnout was still only at around 56 percent. The turnout for female voters in 2014 wasn’t much better, producing only a 64 percent turnout rate. This number is expected to skyrocket in 2019 based on a number of factors. More women are running for office, even though the representation of women in Congress is still low, and more women in support of social movements against domestic violence desire drastic changes in policy. For the first time ever, the number of women voters is projected to outrank the number of men voters. Women are taking to the streets protesting the police force’s lack of conviction in rape cases and lack of education. Many women hope these protests and voting outcomes will bring sex education as well as programs to prevent sexual violence to public schools across India.
- The Women’s Reservation Bill will secure female representation: With women voters on the rise, the need for greater representation in parliamentary positions has become obvious. Between 1980 and 2014, only 7 percent of the seats in Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian Parliament) were filled by women. With men having an average salary three times larger than women in India, it’s no surprise that few women have the ability to run for office. The Women’s Reservation Bill is legislation that would solidify 33 percent of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies just for women representatives. With more female voters than ever, 2019 is also projected to seat more female representatives than ever. The Women’s Reservation Bill does more than just create more opportunities for female representation in Congress, it provides a gateway to push for more women’s rights movements in India in 2019.
- Labor protests are shaking up the Indian economy: Although this is not strictly a women’s issue, these demonstrations highlight other social issues throughout India. With more than 200 million working class citizens in protest, this is the largest labor force strike in recorded history. This protest combats new laws passed by Congress that could limit the rights of labor union members and working-class citizens, women and men alike.
The 2019 women’s rights movements in India have sparked nationwide uprisings both in favor and against recent congressional actions providing women the freedom to enter holy sites as well as pushing for more female representation in the government. With so much political controversy, it’s no surprise that the citizens of the world’s second most populated country are on the move towards equality. The 2019 women’s rights movements are paving the way for equal rights for all.