From Karnataka minister CC Patil who advised women to wear ‘decent’ clothes, to Anil Basu of CPM who likened Mamata Banerjee to a prostitute who had deserted her poor clients for richer clients like America, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal is hardly the first politician to make such a gender insensitive comment against women.
But are such comments more indicative of the fact that Indian politics are still gender-biased and largely hostile to women?
Madhu Kishwar, editor of Manushi, pointed out that the history of Indian political parties has shown they have always been pioneers of women’s empowerment.
Speaking to CNN-IBN, she said,”The Congress has a history of women in the forefront and Gandhi ensured that. Even Mulayam Singh Yadav comes from a Lohiaite background which has had women at the forefront. This just shows that we have degraded as a culture.”
According to Kishwar, politics is now one of the most hostile places for women due to the high density of criminals gravitating towards it.
The panchayats, that had achieved some empowerment for women, were also governed by money and muscle power, she said.
“This clout does not discourage just women from entering politics, but also honest men also,” Kishwar said.
However, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Congress Leader and Rajya Sabha said the view that Indian politics was gender insensitive was a largely ‘upper-middle class feminist’s' perspective.
He pointed out how there are more women in panchayats and local elected bodies in India than all the other countries put together.
When questioned about the conduct of his own party’s minister, he said,”I find the remark stupid, and in bad taste, but I do not think it is connected with being a politician. He just proved himself a bad poet.”