Demanding food security, universalisation of the Public Distribution System (PDS) and expressing their concern over the increasing violence against women in the country, the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) on Thursday announced that it will hold two major national protests on September 18 and October 2 on the issues.

Explaining the decision, which was taken at the Federation’s recently concluded all-India conference held in Chennai, NFIW president Aruna Roy said: “We need to focus on the systematic rise in violence against women, including molestation, rape, witch hunt, moral policing and a whole range of structural social and economic oppression. There is also an urgent need to speak of women’s rights not exclusive to, but in conjunction with other human and development rights.”

She added: “Even the representation of women in the media which is tied to the project of consumerism unleashed by the new economic policy is also an urgent issue that we will focus on. While the visibility of women in media is increasing, what is missing is empowerment. We need to link the two.”

She also questioned the efficacy of the National Commission for Women and said, “The Commission needs to reflect on its role and work on gender-based issues. There is an urgent need for some serious evaluation and thinking on what it is doing for women’s issues in India.”

NFIW working president Gargi Chakravarty said: “Violence against a woman starts even before she is born and continues through all the phases of her life. Even after 66 years of Independence and 60 years of Indian Parliamentary Democracy, it is a shame that victimisation of women in various horrific forms still continues throughout the country.”

Meanwhile, pointing to the rising levels of hunger and malnutrition especially among women and children in the country, NFIW general secretary Annie Raja said: “The United Progressive Alliance lacks political will and social commitment to bring a comprehensive and Universal Food Security Bill. The Bill which was tabled in Parliament or the reported “Plan-B” proposal cannot ensure access and availability of food to the people. The NFIW has decided to intensify its campaign and struggles on these issues. As a part of this, it has been decided that September 18 -- World Food Day -- will be observed as a demand day and the slogan will be ‘Food Must Be Our Fundamental Right’ and it has to be guaranteed.”

She added: “On this day dharnas and picketing of the Central Government offices will be organised. This will be done from village to the National Capital.”

Ms. Raja noted that to protest against the uncontrolled and escalating violence against women, the NFIW will observe October 2 as a day to protest. She said, “The main slogan for this campaign is ‘Stop violence against women, ensure their safety and security’. On this day human chain in front of the Central and State Government offices will be organised. We also appeal to all organisations and movements who support our issues of struggle to join in both these agitations.”

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