10 reasons why 2018 was the Year of Women

From #MeToo movement to Sabarimala Verdict, from Women shining in Sports to women with disabilities making us proud this year, WOMEN have been in news all year round and laws were introduced and altered in their favor for their empowerment. 2018 was the YEAR OF WOMEN and we owned it!

1. # MeToo: A Breakthrough in History

The second half of 2018 saw an unprecedented number of women who exposed sexual predators at workplaces. Irrespective of the sector, women took to social media to publicly name individuals who had sexually assaulted or harassed them in the past.

The called out for sexual misconduct included actors like Alok Nath, Nana Patekar, Sajid Khan, Subhash Ghai; Musicians Kailash Kher, Anu Malik, and journalists including Vinod Dua, Prashant Jha, Suhel Seth, BJP leader MJ Akbar, author Chetan Bhagat among others.

The movement began with actor Tanushree Dutta accusing actor Nana Patekar and director Vivek Agnihotri of sexual harassment while shooting a film. Accusations by women forced many organizations to not only investigate the accused but also re-evaluate the measures for women safety at workplaces.

2. Criminalizing Triple Talaq: Key Step to Empower Muslim Women

The Parliament passed the historic triple talaq bill that penalizes the archaic practice of instant triple talaq after a charged up five-hour debate in the Lok Sabha. Basically, it has passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill by negating the amendments moved by some opposition members. Two hundred forty-five members voted in favour of the bill while 11 voted against it yesterday.

The Bill makes all declarations of instant triple talaq void and illegal. It seeks to make the practice a punishable offence with imprisonment of up to three years.

The Bill will replace the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance-2018. Replying to a debate on the Bill, Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad said, it has not been brought to target any religion but to give justice to women.

3. Justice in Nirbhaya Rape Case

Supreme court upheld the death sentence in the 2012 Delhi bus gang rape case. A crime that shook the nation and led to widespread protests on the street. But Supreme court’s decision conveyed a clear message : Zero Tolerance for the Guilty.

4. Support to rural women artisans and the cottage industry

The artisan industry is the second largest employer in developing nations and largely employs women. India accounts for seven million artisans according to official reports, while people within the industry say the number is almost 200 million. Yet, India contributes a meagre two percent to the global handicrafts industry, while China stands at 30 percent.

The Handicrafts Board of India stated that apart from being an unorganised sector, artisans faced other challenges such as low capital, poor exposure to new technologies, the absence of market intelligence, and a poor institutional framework.

Several startups realised this and are helping revive the industry by equipping artisans with information on the latest trends and the demand in markets. This has led to not only a revival of the industry but is also leading to Khadi becoming popular among the masses.

5. Women On Maternity Leave To Be Paid 50% Salary Of 14 Weeks

Taking note of several reports which indicated a decrease in the recruitment of women workers owing to an increase in maternity leaves, the government has decided to pay 50 percent of the salary of 14 weeks to women on maternity leave.

Earlier, under the Maternity Benefit Act, women were given paid leave for 12 weeks which was extended to 26 weeks after an amendment in March 2017. Taking off some monetary burden from the employers, the government decided to dutch in by paying 50 percent salary to women on maternity leave for the extended 14 weeks.

“The pending amount has been decided to be utilized for the maternity benefit scheme. The disbursement of the amount will be done by the state authority under the direction of the Labour Ministry,” a WCD official said. Any women with a monthly salary of above Rs. 15,000 will be eligible for the benefit.

6. The Sabarimala Verdict

In a verdict by the five judges bench, led by CJI Dipak Misra, the Supreme Court lifted the ban on women of the said age-group, that earlier forbid them from entering the temple premises. In the 4:1 majority verdict, the ban was seen as an act of gender discrimination. While the temple authorities were unhappy with the judgment, they said they will be following it.

With the rolling out of this landmark judgment, the Supreme Court made clear in another statement that “biological reasons should not be considered for the continuation of an age-old tradition”. Ironically, however, the only voice of dissent in this verdict came from the only women justice in the panel, Indu Malhotra. According to Malhotra, there is a difference between diversity and discrimination, and hence, the court should not intervene.
It has clearly explained that women should not be treated as Second Class Citizens.

7. Adultery law

India’s top court has ruled adultery is no longer a crime, striking down a 158-year-old colonial-era law which it said treated women as male property. Previously any man who had sex with a married woman, without the permission of her husband, had committed a crime.

A petitioner had challenged the law saying it was arbitrary and discriminated against men and women. While reading out the judgment on adultery, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that while it could be grounds for civil issues like divorce, “it cannot be a criminal offense”.

8. Women Shining in Sports

In 2018, it was the women athletes who dominated the headlines and grabbed the limelight over their male counterparts. With multiple big sporting events in 2018 for India including Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, the country’s women athletes stole the limelight as they outshone men in several sports. Be it the hockey or kabaddi team, the women were a step ahead of their male counterparts. Several women athletes representing India at the International stage made history and broke records in 2018.

a. Hima Das

Hima Das has given the country some serious Olympic-medal hopes with her performances this year. The 18-year old scripted history as she became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at an IAAF event by posting time of 51.46 seconds in 400 meters at the World Under-20 Athletics Championships.

Later at the Asian Games, the Assamese sprinter won silver after setting a national record of 50.79 seconds in the 400m final. She also won gold at women’s 4×400 meters relay and silver at Jakarta–Palembang 2018. She ended the season at world number 23 and second in Asia.

b. Swapna Barman

Swapna Barman made headlines with her historic gold at the Asian Games and the story of struggles behind it. Swapna defied all odds as she became the first-ever Indian to win a gold medal in women’s heptathlon event at the Asian Games. Not only did she finish the seven events with a personal best score but Swapna, who hails from Jalpaiguri, fought through a terrible toothache and non-customised shoes for six toes on each foot on her way to making history.

c. Manika Batra

Manika Batra took the country by storm in a sport that hasn’t seen many female Indian players at the forefront. Batra finished Commonwealth Games with a total of four medals including two gold – one in women’s singles and one in women’s team, besides a silver in women’s doubles and a bronze in mixed doubles categories respectively. During the games, Manika also shocked World number four and triple Olympic medallist Feng Tianwei of Singapore twice in the tournament.

d. PV Sindhu

Even though five silvers would generally count as an achievement but PV Sindhu finally overcame her finals jinx as she defeated the defending champion and World No. 5 Nozomi Okuhara to win her maiden BWF World Tour Finals title in Guangzhou, China. Earlier in the year, she scripted history as she became the first-ever Indian to win a silver medal in any women’s singles badminton event at the Asian Games 2018.

e. Saina Nehwal

Veteran badminton star Saina Nehwal also had a strong year after recovering from career-threatening knee injury. Saina’s impressive year began with her beating co-star PV Sindhu in the final of Commonwealth Games to become the first-ever Indian to have two gold medals in badminton singles category at the Commonwealth Games. The 28-year old clinched gold at the Syed Modi Open tournament, silver at Indonesia Masters, Denmark Open and bronze at Asian Games as well as Asian Championship.

f. Mary Kom

The legend of Mary Kom continues to get better as she added another feat to her illustrious career by winning a record-equalling sixth gold at World Boxing Championship in November. ‘Magnificent Mary’ won via unanimous decision in 48kg light flyweight class to equal the record of Cuban legend Felix Savon as the joint most successful boxer (Men or Women) in the history of World Championships.

Earlier this year, Mary Kom added to her medal cabinet a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, where she was making her debut, beating Northern Ireland’s Kristina O’Hara in the final by a unanimous decision.

g. Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat had a near-perfect year as she won back-to-back golds at the two crucial events of the year – Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. Vinesh, who is one of India’s biggest hopes for an Olympic medal, became the first Indian woman wrestler to win a gold medal at the Asian Games. She also won back-to-back golds at two CWGs – 2014 in Glasgow and 2018 in Gold Coast.

h. Mithali Raj

The Pillar and captain of Indian women’s cricket team, in 2018 Mithali became the cricketer with the most number of T20I runs.

9. 3 Indian Women selected among 5 world global leaders by Facebook

Adhunika Prakash, who founded non-profit Breastfeeding Support for Indian Moms in Pune, was on Monday selected among five global leaders for $1 million award each by Facebook as part of its Community Leadership Programme. Apart from Prakash, Chetana Misra who founded Mompreneurs India and Tamanna Dhamija who created Baby Destination were awarded $50,000 in fellowship each, as the social media giant selected community leaders in residence, fellows and youth participants from over 6,000 applicants across the world, Facebook said in a statement
Selected for facebook’s in residence award, Breastfeeding Support for Indian Moms is a peer-to-peer support group primarily for breastfeeding parents. The group has more than 80,000 people from across the country. She aims to work with hospitals in India to help train and support parents, particularly in rural areas.

The three leaders are among 115 people who have been selected into the programme as community leaders in residence, fellows and youth participant to work for community resilience or issues, civic engagement health and wellness parenting education.

10. Women with disabilities making us proud

In India, women and girls with disabilities face a high risk of psychological trauma and sexual violence. A condition which they may not necessarily have any control over results in them being subject to much discrimination and subordination. While both psychological and physical disabilities are stigmatized by society, here are ten women with disability who kicked ass in 2018!

a. Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi Goyal is an activist and comedian working on disability rights and gender justice. She is the founder and director of Mumbai based non-profit Rising Flame and is a writer, trainer, researcher and artist. She is one of the contributors of the Human Rights Watch Report, Invisible Victims of Sexual Violence: Access to Justice for Women and Girls with Disabilities in India. Nidhi is visually-impaired. A few weeks ago she opened up about her experience of depression. In a society were publicly speaking about depression is often stigmatized, personalized accounts such as Nidhi’s give courage to others to also speak of their experiences.

b. Shampa Sengupta

Shampa Sengupta is an activist working on gender & disability issues. She is the founder of the advocacy group Sruti Disability Rights Centre and is an Executive Committee Member of National Platform for Rights of the Disabled. She is another contributor to the Human Rights Watch Report, Invisible Victims of Sexual Violence: Access to Justice for Women and Girls with Disabilities in India. Last month she opened up about her #MeToo story. It highlights the everyday struggles women with disabilities face after undergoing sexual harassment while also giving strength to others and reinforcing that it is never too late to share one’s story. Shampa hopes that her narrative will encourage “Many women in the disability sector to open up and talk about the sexual harassment they faced within the sector, after reading this.”

c. Vaishali Salavkar

Vaishali Salavkar is the first Indian blind chess player to participate in the 43rd World Chess Olympiad in September 2018. She has been playing chess since 20-25 years and is an eight-time national champion.

d. Abha Khetarpal

Abha Khetarpal has developed a digital sexuality education course for people with disabilities this year which “is realistic, emotionally agreeable, non-judgemental, and open to discussions”. Despite contracting polio at the age of 3, she firmly believes that “Even while sitting on a wheelchair, one can stand up for one’s rights“. Abha is a disability rights and gender activist and FII writer. She is also a National Awardee and one of the 100 Women Achievers in India. Abha’s work not only addresses existing issues that women with disabilities face but also involves developing a solution which she achieves through education.

e. Shivangi Agrawal

Shivangi Agrawal is one of the members of the Delhi Queer Pride 2018 organizing committee. She said how this was the first time in 10 years that the stage was made accessible to wheelchair users. Although there are still many improvements to be made, the Pride “is constantly working to become more inclusive“, says Shivangi. She is a comedian and gender rights activist who addresses the many biases and discrimination that women with disabilities face through her humor.

f. Manasi Joshi

Manasi Joshi won the bronze medal in women’s singles SL3 Category at the 2018 Thailand Para-Badminton International and at the Asian Para Games 2018. This was her first tournament after getting a sports prosthesis. She was required to have her leg amputated after a motorcycle accident and delayed medical attention. “The biggest challenge for [Manasi] is the society itself“, Manasi says to The Hindu, and “it is sad that many still treat para-athletes as lesser mortals.” She continues that things have “changed a lot thanks to the performances by our tribe at the highest level.” Manasi’s determination and strife is inspirational; an example of how we have the power to overcome the obstacles that come our way. In Manasi’s words.

g. Jasmina Khanna

Jasmina Khurana is a software professional who was born with cerebral palsy. She is also a disability rights activist who blogs about disability. Her advocacy calls for initiatives which make all spaces accessible for everyone. She petitioned against poor treatment from the Canadian Embassy in India, she said: “I may be physically challenged, but I am a human too.” Jasmina’s petition was successful as she was granted a visa to visit her sister in Canada, she was given a letter of apology from the Canadian Embassy and assured that they will take better care when dealing with people with special needs. Jasmine exhibits how every individual has a voice, and that they are not treated the way every human should be treated then they must speak against it. (source: Feminismindia)

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Written by TEAM WSL

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