DELHI: To mark International Women’s Day in India, thousands of women have Monday joined protests by farmers on the outskirts of New Delhi as they demand to scrap the new agricultural laws opening up the country’s farm sector to private buyers.
The demonstrations were held at multiple sites on the capital’s fringes where tens of thousands of farmers have already been camping for more than three months to protest laws which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says are necessary to modernize agriculture.
Representing the colour of mustard fields the women wore bright yellow scarves and took centre stage at one key site as they chanted slogans, held small marches, and made speeches against the laws.
“This is an important day as it represents women’s strength,” said Veena, a 37-year-old from a farming family, who gave only one name in order to protect her identity.
“I believe if us women are united, then we can achieve our target much quicker,” added Veena, who travelled from the northern state of Punjab to the sprawling Tikri protest spot.
About 100 women sat cross-legged in front of a makeshift stage in Ghazipur, one of the protest sites on Delhi’s border with Uttar Pradesh state.
“Women are sitting here, out in the open, in protest, but Modi doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about mothers, sisters, and daughters. He doesn’t care about women. That’s clear,” said Mandeep Kaur, a female farmer who travelled 1,100km (680 miles) from Chhattisgarh state to participate in the protests.
Reportedly, the agriculture sector accounts for nearly 15 per cent of India’s $2.9-trillion economy and employs about half its workforce.
Women farmers have as much at stake as men from the new farm laws, Kuruganti added.
“Markets that are distant as well as exploitative make single women farmers more vulnerable, and in any case, a patriarchal society has discriminated and made them vulnerable.”
International Women’s Day, sponsored by the United Nations since 1975, celebrates women’s achievements and aims to further their rights.