Fighting to be Heard: How New Farming Laws Disproportionately Affect Women in Rural India
Protests against the controversial agricultural laws in India have been on-going, and standing shoulder to shoulder with the men are the women and children. For the thousands of rural women marching, this is a battle within a battle. Placed at the very bottom of the social and economic ladder, these women are fighting against the new farming laws as well as fighting to just be seen.
With food, blankets, and enough rations to last up to six months - thousands of women joined the the "Delhi Chalo" protests, not solely with the intention to support, but also to let the Indian government and the rest of the world know that women farmers exist and women in farming families are also suffering as a result of laws changing.
“The woman labour households on an average earned Rs 77198.48 and spent Rs 85621.77 annually in the rural areas of Punjab. Out of the total consumption expenditure, 57.34 percent was spent on non durable items. Because of the excess of consumption expenditure over household income, the average propensity to consume worked out to be 1.11 for an average woman labour household. As a result an average household in the sample incurred a deficit.” - From 'Levels of Living of Woman Labour Households in Rural Punjab- An Empirical Study' by Dr G. Singh.
73% of women in rural India are specifically agricultural workers - and despite this, they only own 13% of the land that they work on. Although the Indian government have relayed that it considers those who work within any aspect of the agricultural industry as a "farmer", this is not relayed in actuality. It's those who own land who are truly considered farmers and patriarchal structures ensures that rural women in India, despite not knowing a life other than farming, will not get their hands on property, access to resources or any assets -ultimately rendering them invisible.
New farming laws will disproportionately affect women in more ways than one. Women are farmers too, although they struggle to be seen and heard, they are integral part of the agricultural industry. This is an added layer of inequality, financial disparity as well as gender inequality.
These issues are further exacerbated by the water crisis which has caused agrarian distress throughout Panjab. The surge in farmer suicides due to the water crisis has meant that women have a few crosses to bare; now the matriarch, it's their responsibility to look after their homes, be the breadwinner and pay off the debt they're now left with, and all whilst grieving the loss of their husband. Interestingly enough, patriarchy patterns in a way that doesn't allow women to inherit land and things that which they may prosper, but always debt.
This isn't a "breaking stereotypes" story. It's the story of thousands of women across rural Indian who are taking a stand against a government who chooses not to see them, who are slowly but surely taking away their livelihood.