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Sexism! A repeated offence by leaders!

Posted in View Point

Published on March 20, 2015 with No Comments



He has been named the best parliamentarian and yet on last Thursday he described the proposal to raise foreign investment in insurance in India from 26 to 49 per cent as a symptom of obsession with everything “foreign”. “Here people are awed by fair skin. Matrimonial ads also ask for fair skinned brides,” What made matters worse was his inference. “In the entire country there are more saanvle (dark skinned) men. The women of south are beautiful, their bodies, their skin -We don’t see it here. They know dance.” Linking foreign investment to fair skin, comparing with dark skinned girls and talking about their assets doesn’t sound odd. Indians have had their share of embarrassment ,but getting to hear such phrases from the Upper House of parliament! Meet the 67-year-old JDU leader Sharad Yadav! Only one MP DMK MP Kanimozhi objected, and she was told by Sharad Yadav that every discussion in Parliament need not be “serious”.
It got even more bizarre. Leslee Udwin, the director the controversial BBC documentary India’s Daughter, also came under fire. Yadav maintained that she was given permission to shoot in restricted areas like Tihar jail because she was a “fair-skinned women” for whom “all doors open”. Having seen the courage displayed by Kanimozhi, some other members interrupted  Sharad Yadav and tried to steer him back to the debate but he was unstoppable.

His remarks have caused an uproar, but in many ways, his indifference to the womenfolk of India is understandable. In a society as sexist as India’s, its electoral representatives have taken misogyny to a fine art. Cutting across parties and levels of seniority, politicians have displayed shocking levels of sexism.Such recurring acts and repeated silence by voters has only given an incentive to the offenders and they have only utilised the given opportunity to come out with all gunsblazing.

Giving company to Sharad Yadav is another Yadav! If there ever was an award for creating hatred or dislike of women or girls in Indian politics, the Samajwadi Party supermo Mulayam Singh Yadav would win by a landslide. At an election rally in April, Mulayam Singh Yadav dismissed a gang-rape in Mumbai with the declaration that “boys are boys”.  “The poor fellows, three of them have been sentenced to death. Should rape cases lead to hanging? Boys are boys, they make mistakes. Two or three have been given the death sentence in Mumbai. We will try and change such laws.we will also ensure punishment of those who report false cases.” For Mulayam, alleged rapists are “poor fellows” and women? He even raised concern about proposed changes in law to generate a point of view that defies all logic. With Sharad joining him, perhaps it won’t be an understatement –“Yadavs are Yadavs”.

Since coming to power, the BJP has gone bizarre.Its leaders have sparked a bidding war of sorts on the number of children that a Hindu woman should give birth too in a bid to counter irrational fears of a Muslim demographic takeover of India. BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj declared that every Hindu woman should have four children. Shyamal Goswami, raised this number to five while the Shankaracharya of Badrikashram, Shri Vasudevanand Saraswati, urged Hindu women to have ten children each. Series of sexist attack on women –being pressed into the service as baby producing machines !

Not to forget, Andhra Pradesh Congress chief, Botsa Satyanarayana who in the aftermath of the Delhi 2012 gang-rape, proposed to keep women indoors. President Pranab Mukherjee’s son, Abhijit Mukherjee, did not take too kindly to the Delhi protesters.Characterising them as “dented and painted women”, he claimed that the activists had come out right after a bout of dancing at the discotheque. State of Haryana that records the lowest sex ration has too contributed in recording sexist comments. “ Marry off girls early to prevent rape,”  Om Prakash Chautala of Indian National Lok Dal had said. He based his propagation by turning the clock back to the medieval age as a solution for rape.“We should learn from the past, especially in the Mughal era, people used to marry their girls to save them from Mughal atrocities and currently a similar situation is arising in the state,” said Chautala, seemingly unaware of the pain that his satire would cause to the women of India. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, perhaps wanted to give some company to Chautala in principle. Bhagwat argued in 2013 that “such rapes hardly take place in Bharat, but they frequently occur in India”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too have had his share of shame with the  “stalking scandal” of 2013 when he  was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. The Gujarat government was accused of illegally following a woman, a charge that the BJP accepted with a bizarre explanation: the woman’s father asked Modi to do it. Behind that shameful defence was a patriarchal assumption that men ‘possess’ women, therefore have the right to safeguard the same by any means necessary.

Certainly demeaning statements against women by leaders who are expected to lead by example shows the mental bankruptcy that they suffer. One  expects political leaders to rise above party considerations and strongly condemn such statements, regardless of who has made them. However, this didn’t happen this time as it has not happened in previous cases too. On the contrary, the Parliament was further shamed when MPs present in the House kept silent while Mr Yadav held forth, with the exception of DMK MP Kanimozhi.


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