BJP MP Vinay Katiyar's comments on Priyanka Gandhi's looks caused a major uproar on Wednesday. Women's activists called for action against him and talking heads on news channels took took the moral high ground condemning the remarks.
Gandhi had a great come back to Katiyar's comments. She laughed it off saying it revealed "the BJP's mindset". The Congress party demanded and apology and action against him.
But what Gandhi and her party have forgotten or overlooked is that Congress isn't exactly better off in the department. And not just the Congress, the problem of sexism cuts across parties.
Katiyar's comments indicate a deeper malaise that ails our society and elected members and representatives are no exceptions.
From Congress spokesperson Al Naseer Zakaria, MP Abhijeet Mukherjee to Sharad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, many of our politicians show why no party can claim a moral high ground when it comes to making sexist, insensitive remarks against women.
Congress spokesperson Al Naseer Zakaria's remarks that Times Now had to beep out
In December 2016, Congress spokesperson Al Naseer Zakaria's made such terrible comments about Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's wife Amruta, that too on air, that they had to be censored and he was asked to leave the show. Mid-Day had reported that he had commented on the clothes that she was wearing. Instead of apologising Zakaria made more offensive comments and had to be escorted out of the studio.
Abhijeet Mukherjee's dented and painted comment
MP Abhijit Mukherjee -- better know as President Pranab Mukherjee's son -- had made the most ridiculous comment about women in December 2012. When news channel ABP News asked him about the protests in Delhi following the gang-rape, Mukherjee had said that the protests were not being led by students as the media claimed. Instead, he insisted, 'dented and painted women' were the ones protesting. Mukherjee had said, "Women who are participating in candle-light vigils and those who are protesting have no connection with ground reality. These pretty ladies coming out to protest are 'highly dented and painted... I have my doubts...how many of these women are students...women in these age groups are generally no longer students." Mukherjee later withdrew his comments after massive outrage. His sister Sharmishtha Mukherjee too apologised on national television.
Sharad Yadav's numerous sexist remarks
JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav is pretty much a repeat offender when it comes to sexism. As recently as this week Yadav had said, "Beti ki izzat se vote ki izzat badi hai" (the honour of a vote is higher than the honour of a daughter)." He then proceeded to give a seriously disturbing rationale. "If the honour of the daughter goes then the honour of the village/mohallah goes, but if you sell your vote then the whole nation loses its honour and all our future dreams vanish."
And according to him, this is not a derogatory statement to make. "This is an image that vote and daughter, both are a matter of honour. I didn't say anything demeaning. Everyone's perspective is different but those who are taking it wrongly are misleading others as well. It is not appropriate," he said.
Earlier, in 2015, Yadav had said in Parliament, "In the entire country there are more saanvle (dark skinned) men. The women of south are beautiful, their bodies...their skin ...We don't see it here. They know dance."
Mulayam Singh Yadav is a rape apologist and thinks gangrape is not possible
In 2015, after claiming that Uttar Pradesh had the lowest number of rapes, Samajwadi Party's beloved Netaji in his infinite wisdom had said, "One commits rape and then four more are named. Kabhi aisa ho sakta hai kya? Aisa practical hi nahin hai. (Can such a thing happen? It is impractical)."
In 2014, while addressing a rally, Yadav had blamed rape on women and even said men are bound to make mistakes like raping someone. "Ladkiyan pehle dosti karti hain. Ladke-ladki mein matbhed ho jata hai. Matbhed hone key baad usey rape ka naam dey deti hain. Ladko sey galti ho jati hai. Kya rape case mein phasi di jayegi? (First girls develop friendship with boys. They when differences occur, they level rape charges. Boys commit mistakes. Will they be hanged for rape)," he had said.
In 2010, furiously opposing the Women's Reservation Bill Yadav had said in Parliament, "If the Women's Reservation Bill is passed in its existing form, what kind of women will enter Parliament and the state legislatures? ...It would be the wives and daughters of government officials and big business houses, who would invite whistles from young men."
And, wait for it, he had called rural women unattractive. "Bade bade gharon ki ladkiya aur mahilayan kewal upar ja sakti hain...yaad rakhna...apko mauka nahi milega..hamare gaon ki mahila me akarshan itna nahin...,"(Only girls and women from affluent class can go forward...remember this..you (rural women) will not get a chance...Our rural women did not have that much attraction)," he had said.
"Arrey kal tak to TV pe thumke laga rahi thi"
During a heated television debate in 2013 Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam had personally attacked Smriti Irani saying, "Arrey kuchdin pehle tak toh TV pe thumke laga rahi thi aur aaj neta ban rahi hain. (Till few days ago you used to dance on TV, now you are pretending to be a politician.)
After Nirupam's cringeworthy comment, Irani had filed a defamation case against him.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi's comparison of women wearing lipstick and terrorist! Yes you read that right
BJP's Mukhta Abbas Naqvi is also part of this honoured list of sexist netas. His comments are so outrageous they are also funny. He had said, "Some women wearing lipstick and powder have taken to streets in Mumbai and are abusing politicians, spreading dissatisfaction against democracy. This is what terrorists are doing in Jammu and Kashmir."
If our leaders are to be believed, lingerie mannequins promote rape
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation unanimously decided in 2013 that it would be the best to ban lingerie mannequins in Mumbai, because apparently, these non-living things promote rape.
This bizarre decision was explained by BJP's Ritu Tawade when she said, "Lingerie mannequins promote rapes. Skimpily clad mannequins can pollute young minds. After the Delhi rape case, I felt something had to be done."
"Rape is consensual"
How the words rape and consensual can be said in the same sentence, it is difficult to fathom, but this Haryana Congress leader thinks that most rape cases are not rape cases at all.
Congress Hisar district spokesman Dharambir Goyat had said, "Ninety per cent of rape cases are (a case of) consensual sex between the girl and boy.... The girl gets into an affair with a boy and she goes with him without knowing that he is of criminal mindset. It's not the state government which is responsible for rapes. In fact in most of the cases it is consensual sex."
The list of these outrageous comments is horrifying and endless. But it only indicates that India, as a society, has a long way to go in terms of understanding women's issues. It is also scary, because those who are supposed to be making laws to protect citizens are the ones who seem to be least sensitive about these issues.