Sexism in India is evergreen with a patriarchal society proudly supporting the practices that puts into shame the ethos of a democracy; it is rather sad that politicians, who are supposed to be the torchbearers of the democracy are no different from them.
In India, a country that proudly raises the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ slogan in a strong campaign for women empowerment, the party leaders, at times, don’t shy at disclosing the ugly sides of their persona, calling women by defamatory terms, especially during election season.
The recent example of this would be the Madhya Pradesh episode where former chief minister Kamal Nath was seen in a video referring to a woman candidate of BJP, Imarti Devi, as “item”. He was addressing a rally in Dabra for bypolls. Devi is a Congress turncoat who was among the 22 Jyotiraditya Scindia loyalists, whose resignations had led to the fall of the Kamal Nath government earlier this year.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has sought an explanation from the Congress leader for his “item” jibe against the Dalit leader who was a minister in the Kamal Nath government. It has also forwarded the matter to the Election Commission for necessary action.
When did you last hear a politician use such a sexist remark for a woman leader? Not a long time ago, if you recall the Lok Sabha election season last year.
On April 14 last year, ahead of the parliamentary polls, to a packed public rally in Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi leader Azam Khan chose to speak on an obnoxious line, literally talking about the colour of underwear of a woman BJP leader, Jaya Prada, who was his opponent from Rampur constituency. Khan won the election.
Again, after being elected to the Lok Sabha, he felt the need to tell BJP MP Rama Devi, who was presiding over the proceedings in Lok Sabha, “I like you so much that I feel like looking into your eyes all the time.” He later apologised in the House after protests from a section of leaders and Union ministers.
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam had once said this about BJP’s Smriti Irani: “You used to charge money to perform dance shows on television, and now you have become an election analyst,” PTI reports suggest.
JDU’s Sharad Yadav had once described well-off women as “par kati auratein” (women with short hair), according to Outlook. In 2017, ANI quoted him as saying “Honour of vote is bigger and important than the honour of a daughter. If a daughter’s honour is compromised, it only affects the village or community but if the vote’s honour is compromised, it impacts the entire nation.”
Surprisingly, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made similar uncalled for remarks in 2012 when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister and was campaigning in Himachal Pradesh. “Wah kya girlfriend hai. Apne kabhi dekha hai 50 crore ka girlfriend (What a girlfriend. Have you ever seen a girlfriend worth 50 crore,” he had said, according to The Times of India, referring to Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar.
Now the question that arises is whether or not such remarks affect a leader’s poll prospects and his popularity among the masses.
History answers: No. All the leaders mentioned above are still very much relevant to Indian politics. Many others who have hit the headlines for their sexist rants.
This points to a very problematic trend, perhaps debatable, that a large section of Indians are yet to understand the problem with sexism; for them, statements need not be judged from the gender perspective.
Perhaps, that’s where the problem lies.