Senior Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury on Tuesday raised many eyebrows when she said that the 'casting couch'; a euphemism for sexual harassment, was not isolated to the film industry alone and even Parliament was not immune to it.
"It's the bitter truth. It is not just in the film industry. This happens everywhere in work spaces. Don't imagine that Parliament is immune or some other work space is immune. If you look at the western world today, established top actresses took so long to come out and say 'me too'. It's time India stood up and said 'me too'," Renuka told reporters.
Chowdhary's remark came after veteran Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan said that casting couch was prevalent in all sectors, and not just in the film industry where it "provides livelihood at least". Khan later apologised for her comment.
Chowdhary said the term "casting couch" cannot be narrowed down to one sphere.
"It means when you take away the privileges of women and use it for your personal benefit, or in lieu of other compensation," the Congress leader said, adding that there is a law to prevent sexual harassment at workplaces.
The Congress leader also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for denigrating her as a woman in the past by indirectly referring to her as "Surpanakha" in Parliament when she had laughed at one of his statements.
"When the country's Prime Minister insults a woman, that is denigrating. That is against law. That is denigrating my status as woman. You have taken away my dignity in Parliament," she said.
"When Home Minister (MoS) Kiren Rijiju uploads offensive videos against me, only because I had the courage to speak. So, when they talk in this way, that is derogatory to my status as women. It exists in Parliament... they talk about us like this and they are derogatory," she added.
Chowdhary said: "I am backing every women. Like I said, forget 'me too', this is 'you too'. We have to say this."