As India gears up for assembly elections in five states, the political atmosphere is charged. With politicians engaging in a battle of words every day, some seem to be crossing the line, often blurting out sexist and demeaning comments.
On Wednesday, BJP leader Vinay Katiyar made a sexist comment on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s election campaigning in Uttar Pradesh. “There are many beautiful star campaigners. There are many heroines and artistes who are more beautiful,” he said.
A day ago, Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav had made a bizarre analogy between the ‘izzat’ or honour of a vote and a woman. “Honour of vote is bigger and important than honour of daughter,” Yadav said at a function in Patna.
This was not the first time that Yadav has made controversial remarks that demean women. In 2015, he said in the Rajya Sabha, “The body of women from south is as good as beautiful they are. They (women) in our region are not that good as those (in south) know dancing.”
But sexism and misogyny are rampant among the political class. Here are six shamefully sexist remarks made by Indian politicians in the past few years:
1) Giriraj Singh, BJP MP
In 2015, the lawmaker targeted Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a racist remark , questioning whether the party would have accepted her as its chief if the colour of her skin had not been white.
“If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian and if she wasn’t white , would Congress accept her as a leader?” the BJP MP from Bihar had said.
2) Digvijaya Singh, Congress leader
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh was widely panned in 2013 for referring to Lok Sabha MP Meenakshi Natarajan as ‘100% tunch maal’. The colloquial ‘tunch maal’ is widely used in the Hindi heartland to commodify women as a ‘sexy item’. Singh argued that what he meant was an alternate, but rarely used, meaning of ‘tunch’ - pure and solid.
“Gandhivadi hain, saral hain, imandar hain. Sabke paas jaati hain, gaon gaon jaati hain. Rajneetigyon ko thodi si baat me pata chal jaata hai ki kaun farzi hai, kaun sahi hai. Main purana jauhri hoon, ye 100% tunch maal hai. (Natrajan is a Gandhian. She meets everyone, visits villages. She is genuine. I am a veteran goldsmith and I know she is ‘100% tunch maal’),” Singh said, with Natrajan on the podium.
3) Abhijit Mukherjee, Congress leader and President Pranab Mukherjee’s son
Abhijit Mukherjee, a Congress MP and son of President Pranab Mukherjee, shocked the nation in December 2012 when he labelled women protesting against the Delhi gang rape as “highly dented-painted”.
“What’s basically happening in Delhi is somewhat like Egypt or elsewhere, where there was something called the Spring Revolution, which has very little connection with ground realities. In India, staging candle-light marches, going to discotheques - we did all this during our student life too, we were students too - I know very well what kind of character students should have,” Mukherjee said.
“Those who claim to be students - I can see many beautiful women among them they were highly dented-painted - they’re giving interviews on TV, they’ve brought their children to show them the scenes,” Mukherjee said. He later apologised for the off-colour remark.
4) Abu Azmi, Samajwadi party leader
After the recent allegations of mass molestation in Bengaluru, Samajwadi Party’s Maharashtra unit chief Abu Azmi’s made an appalling remark, blaming women in “half dress” for the reported incident that happened on December 31, 2016.
“When few women in half dress come out on streets at late night with their friends, such incidents do occur... Ladies hailing from well-to-do families, be it from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan or UP, they come out in decent attire and mostly with their family members,” he had said.
Police, however, later said no such incident ever took place.
5) Mulayam Singh Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2014 said it was unfair to award death penalty to rapists for their ‘mistakes’. “Rape ke liye phaansi dena ghalat hai, ladkon se ghalti ho jaati hai, hum satta mein aaye to kanoon mein badlav karenge (Handing death sentence for rape is not fair... boys make mistakes... there will be changes in the law if we come to power).”
He added boys and girls fall in love but part ways due to differences. “When their friendship ends, the girl complains she has been raped,” said Yadav.
6) Laxmikant Parsekar, Goa chief minister
Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar in 2015 allegedly advised protesting nurses not to stage a hunger strike under the hot sun as it could darken their complexion and affect their marital prospects, joining a growing list of ministers from the state who have drawn criticism for their public comments.