Though women account for one half of the world's population, they still do not receive the same treatment as men. With the rise of the women's rights movement and feminist awareness, this inequality has been reduced but by no means eliminated.
On March 8, 1909, American women's societies held a demonstration in Chicago to demand equal treatment. The movement help to unify women's organizations around a common cause and marked a significant advance in worldwide feminist consciousness and activism. At the 1910 International Women's Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark, women continued this momentum by voicing demands for "equal pay for equal work," women's protection, and other issues. A resolution was passed at the conference to make March 8 "International Women's Day," in memory of the Chicago demonstration.
Today, IWD serves to advance radical feminism in the form of promoting pro-abortion and pro-gay rights legislation, ratification of ERA, affirmative action for women, Title IX, government babysitting services, and government wage control, commonly camouflaged as "pay equity" or "comparable worth." The supporting organizations are not women's groups, but feminist groups, including Feminist Peace Network, Aurora Women's Network, UNESCO, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women, also known as UNIFEM. Even media groups, such as CNN, the BBC, and Aljazeera TV have signed on as sponsors. Tomorrow, over 450 rallies and "events" are planned in 44 different countries across the globe.
"The United States Government has no business supporting IWD," said Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly. "The radical feminists know that they can't complain about American women because we are the most fortunate class of people who ever lived, so they search the globe for oppression in other countries using taxpayer dollars."
"The U.S. is joined by a crowd of sponsoring feminist groups who hide behind the guise of being the 'voice of women,' but instead promote such policies and ideals decried by the vast majority of American women, such as taxpayer-funded abortions," Schlafly said.
"These supporting organizations are the very ones who lobby for ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW, which is basically a UN-imposed version of the Equal Rights Amendment," Schlafly said. "The U.S. Senate has yet to ratify this disastrous treaty ever since Jimmy Carter signed it in 1980, and rightly so."
"Today's feminists and CEDAW advocates view 'progress' as government-run day care, greater access to abortion, the elimination of 'Mother's Day' because it promotes an 'negative cultural stereotype,' decriminalization of prostitution in China, and government-mandated workplace benefits that men do not enjoy, just to name a few," said Schlafly. "Their goal is not equality, but preferential treatment."
"The radical feminists want to remake our laws in order to eradicate everything that is masculine from our culture and create a gender-neutral society," concluded Schlafly. "The United States should seriously reconsider lending its stamp of approval to future IWDs."
Muslim feminist perspectives on International Women's Day
Each year, International Women's Day is marked by renewed vigour and optimism, though what is often reported is clearly unsavoury with respect to the status of women across the world. Along with such reports, ever-changing definitions of feminism continue to emerge, absorbing ideas from new participants as they bring their unique perspectives to women's rights, equality, independence, job marketability and socioeconomic conditions for women.
Featuring among these are the myriad understandings of Islamic feminism, ranging from defining women's roles as nurturers worthy of respect, to advocating equal rights for them in line with those enjoyed by Western women.
What has sparked the profusion in such feminist narrative is undoubtedly the continued sorry plight of women in third world countries, particularly those living under the grip of religious laws and patriarchal mores.
The struggle continues on several fronts. Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML), for example is an international feminist organization comprised of several individuals and women's groups across the world, stating as its primary objective the fight to repeal Sharia laws in Muslim countries.
Other feminist groups lobby for women's rights through the media, articulating a vision of comprehensive civil and legal equality for Muslim women. Notable among these is the Muslim Canadian Congress. The feminist perspectives that emanate from these organizations reject the notion altogether that equality can be achieved through applications of religious laws. They hence argue for a clear separation of religion and state in matters of public policy that impact the legal rights and civil privileges of women.
In stark contrast to these are more traditional notions of equality. Gender equity, for example is a concept that offers an unequal but respectful option for Muslim women. It is predicated on the notion that men and women have unequal responsibilities in society deserving unequal rights. The concept rests on the idea that fewer responsibilities warrant fewer rights - hence no injustice. "Progress" and "feminism" according to this notion are understood only in as much as they achieve gender equity rather than equality.
Also within the conservative Muslim narrative, there is a brand of "progressivism" stressing fair and kind treatment of women as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. Votaries of this view believe in gentle persuasion rather than force to mould the opinions of women to acceptable levels of compliance. Consequently, women living within the bounds of these mores continue to be restricted in their professional or academic undertakings, though they enjoy the love and respect of their male protectors.
Farhat Hashmi, Professor of Arabic from the University of Glasgow is one such "progressive". Teaching theology to ardent students enrolled in her year-long diploma program in the GTA, Hashmi preaches total subservience of women to men in the interest of maintaining domestic harmony, suggesting women are thus its ultimate beneficiaries. Clearly her views fall short of any objective standards of feminism, though Hashmi perceives her discourse as feminist. She even advocates polygamy as benefiting women. In the same spirit she urges Muslim women to willingly give consent to their husbands who wish to take second, third or fourth wives.
As one discusses cultural feminism, third-wave feminism and legal feminism constituting the North American feminist narrative, Muslim notions of feminism are also thus defined according to these subjective perceptions of gender equality.
These parallel discourses continually compete with each other for ascendancy with a view to advancing social conditions for women. Some understandings of feminism and progress dress women's rights in religious garb, placing premium on their roles as home-makers, while others free women from the shackles of religious patriarchy entirely, bringing them out of the confines of their homes and stereotypical roles.
Ultimately, the strengths and failures of these approaches lie in how well equality is understood and how universally and consistently it is delivered to the women of the world.
CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES OF EVENTS
International Women's Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women's groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men in order to end war; during the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for "liberty, equality, fraternity" marched on Versailles to demand women's suffrage.
The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies. Following is a brief chronology of the most important events:
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday of that month through 1913.
The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women's Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women's rights and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
As a result of the decision taken at Copenhagen the previous year, International Women's Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
Less than a week later, on 25 March, the tragic Triangle Fire in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working girls, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This event had a significant impact on labour legislation in the United States, and the working conditions leading up to the disaster were invoked during subsequent observances of International Women's Day.
As part of the peace movement brewing on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with their sisters.
With 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war, Russian women again chose the last Sunday in February to strike for "bread and peace". Political leaders opposed the timing of the strike, but the women went on anyway. The rest is history: Four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. That historic Sunday fell on 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia, but on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere.
Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women's movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women's conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point for coordinated efforts to demand women's rights and participation in the political and economic process. Increasingly, International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights.
The Role of the United NationsFew causes promoted by the United Nations have generated more intense and widespread support than the campaign to promote and protect the equal rights of women. The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right. Since then, the Organization has helped create a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.
Over the years, United Nations action for the advancement of women has taken four clear directions: promotion of legal measures; mobilization of public opinion and international action; training and research, including the compilation of gender desegregated statistics; and direct assistance to disadvantaged groups. Today a central organizing principle of the work of the United Nations is that no enduring solution to society's most threatening social, economic and political problems can be found without the full participation, and the full empowerment, of the world's women.
WHAT DO I HAVE TO SAY???
What is it the relevance of the International Women's Day in India???
Like a housewife I spoke to put it "Women's day or whatever it is...What difference does it make to women like us???Dont we still have to make the morning tea for ourselves??"
Need I say more???