Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sexism in Indian politics

A few days ago as the poll trumpets had been blown, the sexist politicians came out of their hiding holes and  we were rattled by an insensitive statement by a BJP leader Vinay Katiyar who said that Priyanka Gandhi is not as beautiful as she is projected to be. There are prettier women leaders in BJP like Smriti Irani  who can pull crowds and give better speeches.
It's not the first time that an Indian politician has passed sexist regressive remarks on a woman politician. The question that baffles me often is that how long it will be before a woman politician is given importance and her potential as a politician not measured by her looks. BSP leader Mayawati has also been a popular target of politicians when once BJP spokesperson Shaina NC took a jibe on her and said that she doesn't know if the BSP leader is a "her" or "she". On another occasion BJP leader Dayashankar Singh said that Mayawati is worse than a prostitute who gives a seat to the person who pays the highest amount for it. His sexist and casteist statements were aimed at her because she is a woman and a Dalit. A metaphor that often hits out at a woman by comparing her to a sex worker is every sexist's glorifying moment of machismo.

Again, a few days ago the CM of UP and Samajwadi party politician Akhilesh Yadav vent his disagreement against fellow woman politician Mayawati by body shaming her in a press conference. He took a jibe at her and said that the grand alliance in Uttar pradesh couldn't have given Mayawati a place because she occupies a lot of space. He further added a poor tasteless remark and said that even her party symbol was an elephant.
This is not the first time that women politicians have been made a easy prey by sexist male politicians.
BJP's Giriraj Singh questioned Sonia Gandhi's abilities as a politician and attributed that her success in politics was because of her skin colour. He said that if Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian, perhaps the Congress party would have never accepted her as their president. The comments drew a lot of flak and he was made to tender an apology to her in the Lok Sabha.

In another incident, former Union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde reprimanded Jaya Bachchan who was mediating a Rajya Sabha discussion on Assam violence saying that it was a serious matter and not the script of a film.

After the last cabinet reshuffle, when Smriti Irani was moved from HRD to Textiles, JDU MP Anwar Ali made a crass remark on her which said that "good that she is a textiles minister;it will help her in covering her body. She had to face such a distasteful remark because of her gender.

BJP leader DayaShankar Singh lashed out at Mayawati while addressing a meeting in Mainpuri where he likened her to a dog and called her a coward.
He said that "Mayawati is like a dog that chases speeding cars on roads, but steps back as and when the vehicle stops." 
He took back his statement later saying that he meant that "she called us dogs."

Such sexist comments show the misogyny that infects Indian politics and the Election Commission must take note of it and ensure that women politicians are not made scapegoats of vile sexist remarks and belittled for their gender which is not something that they should be ashamed of . While male politicians retort to debates about development with other male leaders, when it comes to a woman politician apparently, it is her body or her looks that that they usually take potshots at.
Sadly the election commission of India doesn't have a rule to bring to book sexism against women politicians. Most of the tasteless remarks by male politicians are brushed under the carpet as poor harmless jokes or an appreciation of the looks that cater to the sexist male gaze. 
I wonder how long will it take until Indian women politicians are not made a soft target for their looks or their gender and are appreciated and honored for their calibre as a leader, much like any male leader in Indian politics. How long will we need to tread the rocky paths of sexism until a male politician won't pass a sexist sick joke against a woman taking an aim at her gender. 
Shouldn't female politicians like Mayawati who made it on their own in a repressively patriarchal male dominated field like politics  get recognition for their untiring work?

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