“In our culture, there is no place for a woman,” said one of the defence lawyers featured in the recently released documentary ‘India’s Daughter’. The nation has perpetuated this notion. Our mythology tells us that women in ancient India enjoyed the status of devi (goddess) and they were never treated as second sex. If history is illustrious, the present is ignoble. There is no dearth of instances in modern India wherein women were ridiculed for voicing their opinions, their moral excellence was questioned and vitriolic statements were aimed at dissing their contribution to the society.
Indian politicians had joined the tirade against women since long. Narenda Modi calling Sunanda Pushkar “a 50-crore girlfriend” or Union Minister Giriraj Singh saying that the colour of Sonia Gandhi’s skin made her the Congress President are not isolated cases. Politicians across ranks and affiliations have been a party to this misogynistic deprecation that emerges from their archaic belief: a woman’s place is in the kitchen.
Here is a list of outrageous remarks made by the representatives of the people of India:
#1 Digvijaya Singh
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, the party’s very own ‘Diggy’, has dug up his reputation as a conscientious leader by making crass remarks against women. Apart from describing Congress MP Meenakshi Natrajan as ‘sau tunch maal” (100 percent desirable or sexy woman), he compared Arvind Kejriwal with Rakhi Sawant who tries to expose but lacks substance.
#2 Sharad Yadav
Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav is a habitual offender. His comment on skin and body of south Indian women was far from acceptable for the women MPs in the Rajya Sabha. He didn’t stop at calling women of the south as dark but added that “they are as beautiful as their bodies”. Back in 2014, he described well-off women in the cities as “par kati auratein”, which literally means women with their wings clipped or ones with short hair. Wasn’t that an intrusion into the way a woman would like to wear her hair?
#3 Sanjay Nirupam
Sexism in politics, perhaps, reached its nadir when the Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam took a jibe at Union Minister Smriti Irani during a debate. His very words to the fellow MP were, “Aap toh TV pe thumke lagati thi, aaj chunavi vishleshak ban gayi’’ (“Till some time ago you were doing hip-shaking dance on TV and now you have become a political analyst!”).
#4 Raj Thackeray
The estranged nephew of Bal Thackeray had often revealed his attitude towards women through his public utterances. The MNS president urged women across the country to send ‘choodiyan’ (bangles) to Maharashtra home minister RR Patil for his inability to stem violence against women. Though he tried to portray Patil as a weak minister, it was for everyone to interpret how he views women and symbols associated with them.
#5 Sushil Kumar Shinde
Another fellow Maharashtrian, Sushil Kumar Shinde, also seem to harbour a similar opinion about women. During a debate on ethnic violence in Assam, he literally snubbed Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan and ruled out her views as he made a snide remark: “Listen carefully sister, this is a serious matter. This is not a filmy subject”. India has a history of political leaders looking down on actor-turned-politicians.
#6 Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi
Immediately after the 26/11 attacks, this senior BJP leader took it upon himself to criticise people who were questioning political apathy. He went on to say, “some women wearing lipstick and powder have taken to the streets in Mumbai and are abusing politicians. This is what terrorists are doing in Kashmir”. People don’t expect their leaders to stoop so low. Do they?
#7 Abhijit Mukherjee
President Pranab Mukherjee’s son and Congress MP Abhijit Mukherjee stoked a controversy when he called the participants of anti-rape protests in Delhi “dented and painted women protesters” who “went to discotheques and then turned up at India Gate to express outrage’’. His statement not only demeaned women but also revealed a tendency to treat women as objects. Mukherjee’s remarks revived the demand for a code of conduct for elected representatives.
#8 Mulayam Singh Yadav
What could be a profound thought for this ageing politician is a sheer example of sexism for many. During his address to a public rally in Uttar Pradesh he categorically said that only women from the affluent classes can get ahead in life and not the rural women because they are “not that attractive’’. While lending his arguments against the Women’s Reservation Bill, he unabashedly referred to urban women as “the kind who get whistled at”.
It seems the man doesn’t enjoy a very good equation with ‘attractive’ and affluent women.
#9 Om Prakash Chautala
The ex-Chief Minister of Haryana – a state where women are not seen in public places after sunset and gender ratio is skewed in favour of men – also displayed his affinity to medieval outlook. He endorsed Khap Panchayat’s (Caste Council) suggestion that girls should be married off early to prevent rapes. In his defence, he compared the rapes in Haryana to “Mughal atrocities”, which forced people to marry off their girls. Who can save the state from taking regressive steps if the Chief Minister talks of reducing the marriage age for girls?
#10 Sriprakash Jaiswal
The former MP had the gumption of comparing a woman to a cricket match victory. Following India’s victory over Pakistan in T20 championship Jaiswal had this to say: “as time passes, the joy of the victory fades, just like a wife becomes old and loses her charm”. He mocked women’s beauty at a ‘Kavi Sammelan’ (gathering of poets) held in a girls’ college. Irony couldn’t have found a better identity.