St. Petersburg, Sep 21 (IANS) Former Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday said women in India continue to be the “casualties of paternalistic traditions” and still suffer the brunt of discrimination and gender inequality. She said her party is striving to fight these forces and called for a “change in mindset”.
Gandhi said her party has always championed the rights of women and maintained a strong commitment towards empowering them as it is committed to introducing reservations for women in one-third of the seats in Parliament.
“In the 70 years that have passed since we gained our Independence, women in India have fought against poverty, disease, discrimination, and patriarchy. Yet, they continue to be the casualties of paternalistic traditions that dominate many of our communities,” said Gandhi.
“Women still suffer the brunt of discrimination and gender inequality, even violence. While we strive to work against these forces in India, I am struck by how common are the challenges that women across the world face today in impediments to a life of dignity and equality,” she added addresing the second Eurasian Women’s Forum here.
Gandhi recollected how Russia in 1941, Hitler’s blitzkrieg of mighty tanks and armies was stopped in its tracks not just by the men of the Krasnaya Armiya, but by the combined effort of over one million women who were on the front line as soldiers, fighter pilots, doctors, tank drivers, aircraft gunners, partisans, and snipers as well as support staff.
Gandhi also said the integral role that women will play in the future of humanity is well recognised in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “We all understand that these goals will only be attained if we ensure the full participation, and even leadership of women,” she said.
The Congress leader also said: “We will not be able to reverse this reality overnight. But it is my hope that in alliance with progressive male counterparts, we can help open up this space.
“In our country, it is a matter of pride for me that the Congress party is committed to introducing reservations for women in one-third of the seats in the national parliament. Such legislation will be an important stepping stone for our women,” she added.
Stressing that mindset should change, Gandhi said: “As we all know, laws alone do not change the world. It is far more important to change mindset. This is the challenge before us as we embark on our discussions today.”
She further said: “We must also pay tribute to women elsewhere who were in the political frontline of earlier battles, to the powerful ideas unleashed by women’s movements that have changed society’s outlook across the world.”
“we must recognise that, as women who have been able to exercise political authority and privilege, we have a moral obligation and duty to ensure that we help give voice to women across the world, who have been kept silent so far,” said Gandhi.
Gandhi also said the movement to advance and secure the lives of women must be one that is inclusive of all sections and accepting of all differences.
“We must also recognise that the majority of women continue to remain victims of oppression, violence and discrimination. All too often, inequality has been imposed on women in the name of ‘tradition’ within the family and community. That needs to change. We cannot accept recurring mistreatment, as a way of life,” said Gandhi.
“We must work to create a climate where women are given an equal share in the workplace and in public office,” she added.