New Delhi -- Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani today found herself in a spot when her comment that women in India are not told what to wear, whom to meet and where to go, met with protests from the audience she was addressing.
"In India, I don't think any woman here is dictated what to wear, how to wear, whom to meet, when to meet... I am of the opinion, I don't think anybody is dictated here, you are not told," she said while interacting with New York-based journalist Tina Brown at an event in Delhi.
The comment, understandably, didn't go down well with several women in the audience who immediately protested. Brown drew Irani's attention to voices of protest in the audience.
However, an unperturbed Irani went ahead and retorted: "Are you told? I am sorry. I am not. My apologies ladies."
The protests, obviously, were meant to draw Irani's attention to a major flaw in her argument as far as women's issues in India are concerned. A staggering number of women face sexual and other forms of violence every day. Thousands women don't enjoy the liberty to work as they please in India and young underage girls are still married off before they reach adolescence even. And these are among the many curbs that India places on women's freedoms every day. In light of this situation, Irani's comments may have seemed myopic to the audience.
Trying to justify her remarks, Irani said she did not come from a celebrated family but an absolutely lower middle class family which let her determine her own future.
The minister, however, addmitted that there were challenges which everyone has to face.
To back her argument, Irani said that women in countries around the world have to face various challenges. She cited incidents with the US where reportedly, students were asked not to wear 'provocative' costumes during Halloween.
It would be naive to assume that problems like domestic abuse and female foeticide are more in rural areas and less in urban areas, she said while noting that a prosperous area like South Mumbai has a high rate of female foeticide.
Asked about the raging debate on intolerance, Irani said that, "India is aware of its challenges but is also adept in handling those challenges through rule of law."
Irani was asked by Brown about her earlier criticism of Narendra Modi and what made her change her stance later.
"I think I am a living example of Mr Modi's capacity to forgive. I am a living example of Mr Modi's capacity to recognise talent and to reason," Irani said.
With inputs from PTI
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