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This is insensitivity at its worst. Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, when asked about the rape of a six-year-old student in a school in Bangalore, snapped at reporters, asking, “Except that, don’t you have any other issue?” Not just that, a few days ago he was seen sleeping in the assembly during a debate on increasing sexual violence against women. This comment is unbecoming of a chief minister whose state has witnessed a spate of crime against women and girls. However, this inconsiderate behaviour comes as no surprise as political apathy towards gender-based violence and sexual crimes cuts across party lines. From Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav to Trinamool Congress MP Tapas Pal, we have seen politicians of different hues trivialising the issue of rape. “Even god cannot stop such crime from taking place in Uttar Pradesh” is how former governor Aziz Qureshi reacted to increasing incidents of crime against women.
During the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, this entrenched prejudice against women became all the more glaring as political opponents, including women, took sexist jibes at women politicians, without realising how damaging their remarks could be. When people in public life use such language, it shows that gender discrimination runs deep in our society.
Though these remarks have caused widespread outrage, such behaviour hardly receives disciplinary action. While Mr Yadav remained unapologetic about his crass “boys will be boys” comment, a ‘deeply pained’ West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee took no action against Mr Pal, who was caught on camera threatening to send ‘his boys’ to rape women from the Opposition party. It is time political parties realised that they can no longer continue to take the gender question lightly, at least for their own political survival. That the mishandling of the December 16, 2012, rape case was identified as one of the reasons behind the Congress’ drubbing in the 2013 Delhi elections should compel our political worthies to take a lesson or two in gender sensitivity. Mr Siddaramaiah can make a start.