New Delhi: One of the things the New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Bangalore’s M.G. Road proved is that 2017 is not the year Indian politicians stop being sexist.
Women who were leaving pubs at night were met with drunken men who molested them, reports said. Large crowds gathered at the scenes, with the police resorting to a lathi charge to try and get the mob under control. A witness has described what happened as a “mass molestation”.
But for certain politicians, the women and their behaviour are to blame for the ordeal they faced.
In an interview to Times Now on Monday, Karnataka home minister G. Parameshwara said that the victims’ clothes and “Western culture” were to blame for what happened on M.G. Road and also that “these things happen.”
“As I said, unfortunately what is happening is a large number of youngsters gather on days like New Year on Brigade Road, Commercial Street, M.G. Road. Youngsters who are almost like Westerners, they try to copy Westerners not only in mindset, but even the dressing. So some disturbance, some girls are harassed, these kinds of things do happen,” he said.
Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi had similar ideas about why the women were attacked.
“It was bound to happen. Woman call nudity fashion. They were wearing short dresses,” CNN-News18 quoted Azmi as saying. “Women must step out with family,” he added. “It won’t be right for my sister or daughter to go out at night without male members of the family.”
He also compared women to petrol and sugar. “You have to keep petrol away from fire. And if there is sugar, ants will come automatically to it,” he said, indicating that any woman on the streets should assume that men will harass her just because she is there.
National Commission for Women chairman Lalitha Kumaramanglam has come down heavily on the remarks of both politicians and issued them summons.
Part of a big politicians club
While other leaders including the SP’s Juhie Singh have condemned Azmi’s statements, he and Parameshwar are far from alone in their opinion of women’s rights.
Indeed, the list of sexist, insensitive and just plain ignorant things that Indian politicians across parties, policemen and religious leaders have said is as long as it is depressing. Here are a few other recent instances.
1. In June 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking a strong stance against terrorism “despite being a woman“. Just a year earlier, he drew praise for saying, in his Independence Day speech, “I want to ask parents when your daughter turns 10 or 12 years old, you ask, ‘Where are you going? When will you return? Do the parents dare to ask their sons, ‘Where are you going? Why are you going? Who are your friends?’ After all, the rapist is also someone’s son.” In 2012, he was widely criticised for referring to Sunanda Pushkara, the (since deceased) wife of Congress politician Shashi Tharoor as a ’50 crore ki girlfriend’.
2. In July 2016, the then BJP UP vice-president Dayashankar Singh (who just yesterday shared a dais with the prime minister at an election rally) in parliament compared BSP leader Mayawati to a sex worker. “Mayawati gives tickets for one crore rupees and if there is someone who can give Rs 2 crore than she sells it for Rs 2 crore within an hour. If someone is ready to give Rs 3 crore by the evening, she gives the ticket to him. She is even worse than a [expletive],” said Singh.
3. In March 2015, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said in parliament, “The women of the south are dark but they are as beautiful as their bodies…We don’t see it here. They know dance.”
4. In April 2014, then SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said “boys will be boys” while referring to the Shakti Mills gang rape case. “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,” he said.
5. When thousands of women and men took to the streets in Delhi to protest against the December 2013 gang rape of Jyoti Singh in Delhi, President Pranab Mukherjee’s son, Abhijit Mukherjee of the Congress, said it was only “dented and painted” women who were coming out to protest.
6. In 2013, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said rape was a creation of urbanisation and that rapes happened only “in India, not Bharat”.
7. Spiritual guru Asaram Bapu (who has been charged with sexual assault and murder) said after the Jyoti Singh gang rape that she might have been let off if she had called her attackers “bhaiyya” and begged them to let her go.
8. In 2014, a video of Trinamool Congress leader Tapas Pal saying he would “ask his boys to go and rape CPI(M) women” went viral. “Earlier, you guys have bullied me on various occasions. If you insult the mothers and daughters of Trinamool workers. Then I won’t spare you. I will let loose my boys in your homes and they will commit rape. I will teach each of you a lesson,” Pal said. He later claimed that he had said “raid” and not “rape”.