Our MPs possess several talents, but gender neutrality is definitely not one of them. In fact, they continue to make sexist comments with flourish. So it doesn't come as a surprise that Telugu Desam Party MP Murli Mohan Maganti found it necessary to state that women should dress decently and in a 'dignified' manner. It is also not surprising that he made the comment in the context of a Lok Sabha discussion on atrocities on women.
Zee News notes, "While Maganti continued ranting about how women should dress, other MPs who were present in the house simply watched in silence. The actor-turned-politician and newly-elected MP also added that the women should uphold Indian culture."
For those who take any interest in Parliament proceedings, this might have evoked a sense of deja vu. For, the tendency to explain sexual violence as being a reaction to women not conforming to regressive standards of social morality has been an old practice among Parliamentarians.
The most glaring example of the same was the discussion on the anti-rape bill in the Lok Sabha in March 2013. Not only did several MPs try to 'explain' rape as a fall-out of using mobile phones and free intermingling between men and women, some seemed to believe that women bring rape upon themselves. Shockingly enough, this discussion came on the back of the gangrape and subsequent death of a young physiotherapist in December 2012.
After Samajwadi Party MP Sharad Yadav suggested that stalking paves the path for young love, another of his party's MPs came up with a plethora of reasons as to why rapes happen.
As we had noted in this live blog on Firstpost last year, Shailendra Kumar of the Samajwadi Party had pointed to the 'non-traditional' dressing of women as one of the reasons for rapes. In fact, he said that what women wear in contemporary India is galat, wrong.
He had said:"Aj kal desh mein pehnawa itna galat ho gaya hai, ki kya bolun (These days the sense of dressing has become so wrong, what should I say)?"
He didn't stop at that. He suggested that women in films are also to be blamed. An easy target was MP Jaya Prada. He directly took at a dig at her and said, "Jayaprada ji, I have seen you films. I watch them...," leaving a broad hint at the clothes that the actor has worn in her films.
Strangely enough, while not many reiterated what he said, no one, including other women present in the House at that moment, protested. With the exception of Jayaprada.
This was also a house whose Speaker was an educated woman politician, Meira Kumar.
This time around, with TDP MP Maganti too, the Lok Sabha was being run by a woman MP, Sumitra Mahajan.
Incidentallt, Mahajan had said during the same debate last year that teenagers dance together in reality shows, which she believed encourages sexual violence. She also accused condom ads on TVs to be responsible for rapes and sexual perversity.
Again, it was not just Jayaprada who was at the receiving end of sexist remarks. Former Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam told present HRD minister Smriti Irani in the house, "It's only four days of your entry into politics and you have become a political analyst. Aap toh TV pe thumke lagati thi, aaj chunavi vishleshak ban gayi (you were shaking your hips on Tv, and now you have become a psephologist).’
Why such behaviour is not surprising is that we do not associate gender neutrality with our politicians. Actually, a lot of our country's male politicians thrive on the aggressive, sexist, alpha male image, which they believe the masses look up to. In a highly patriarchal society, asserting the ascendancy of the man is something that popularises politicians in the grassroots enough to earn them votes. Hence, sexism is something they practise with great pride.
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Updated Date: Aug 08, 2014 15:03:29 IST