Know your enemy
We often hear the dialogue in stage plays or in general conversation that women themselves are the main enemies of women. There is social root of this aphorism. Women are seen to be engaged in quarrelling among themselves. Mother-in-law behaves adversely with her daughter-in-law. In a work place, women colleagues speak derogatively about one another. Sisters get into fights at home. But these do not justify the above mentioned statement. It is not only based on false premise, it often helps the real enemy go unnoticed. The cruel fact is, it is the entire society and the state machinery that behave like an enemy to women.
A large number of women have now joined the work force. One will find them almost in every sphere of society. But there is glaring discrimination in salary and other benefits of men and women workers. Besides the work in workplace, a female worker has to do household chores as well. This additional work doubles the work load of a woman compared to that of a man. No matter how we glorify her work for the family, in reality it is tedious and tiring. There is no social recognition of this daily household work. Therefore, the financial recognition is out of the question. Today women are working in factories, in hospitals, in the armed forces, in the police, in administration, judiciary and other sectors with reputation. But in many work places they are subjected to discrimination and harassment. There is a long tradition of belittling there contribution to society. The capitalist society claims itself to be democratic. But in reality this system is totally patriarchal. Everyone tries to suppress the rights of women. This is the real face of society. The people of this country suffer from security and women suffer from it most. They have to face deceit, sexual harassment and abuse on a daily bases.
Ours is a society based on discrimination. In this society women become victims of discrimination in two stages. The first discrimination is class based and the second is gender based. Women from lower income and ultra poor groups are in worst situation. But, it is worth mentioning that women from well off families are also subjected to discrimination.
It needs no emphasizing that both society and state are the real enemies of women. The fight for emancipation of women is actually a fight against this system. In this connection we talk about law reforms, creation of new laws and their implementation. There is no denying their importance, but mere reforms will not help change the system. The burning truth is, reforms will only prolong the system. We want social movement for reforms but we must keep this in mind that as long as the discriminatory social system exists, emancipation of women will be an impossibility in the real sense of the team. The goal of the fight therefore should be for changing the total social system. We have been dreaming about this change for a long time. We still dream this today. But nothing has changed. The people of Bangladesh are now helpless in the clutch of this system. This system cannot be changed by women alone. Men have to fight alongside them. The movement for emancipation of women will have to be scaled up as the movement for emancipation of society as a whole. Otherwise, the present movement will not be able to reach its goal. I want to emphasize that the desired change will not come without relentless fight, and both women and men will have to joint it together. The success of any fight or movement for social change depends on the ability to identify the real enemy. In the fight for emancipation of women we must not fail to identify the capitalist system and state as the real enemy.
I congratulate Bangladesh Mahila Parishad on the occasion of the 44th anniversary and for their achievements in the fight to establish women's rights.
The writer is Professor Emeritus, Univesiy of Dhaka.