Rajya Sabha MP and senior JD(U) member Sharad Yadav has given us a headache once again. The politician, in what he surely thought was a clever metaphor, has said that the being able to cast a vote is a ‘bigger honour than your daughter’s honour.’
I mean, where do we begin? (With a Crocin of course.)
This is a man famous for telling a sitting Minister, “I know what you are,” only because the Minister in question is a woman who used to be an actor.
So the fact that he believes that, “If a daughter's honour is violated, her neighbourhood and her village lose their honour, but if a vote is sold, it is the country's honour that goes,” is not surprising at all. Revolting, yes. But not surprising.
In a country which has long held the imagined ‘honour’ of the family, village and community above the actual violence faced by women, statements like these, coming from senior politicians like Yadav do not help in the least.
While we routinely refer to rape as ‘loss of honour’ in different Indian languages, when women decide to step out of caste and religious boundaries to choose their partners, they often face violence from these same families and communities in the name of honour.
Meanwhile, BJP MP Vinay Katiyar decided that he is an authority on women’s beauty, as he questioned why Priyanka Gandhi is campaigning for the Congress. “There are more beautiful women who can be star campaigners,” he said.
Sharad Yadav and Vinay Katiyar made these remarks just ahead of Assembly elections in five states, and the truth is that sexist remarks have rarely, if ever, had political consequences for the men making them.
While the NCW has promised action against Yadav for his remarks, such action doesn’t seem to have much effect on him. “What I meant was that you should love your vote as much as you love your daughter,” he justified in a comment to ANI.
"This statement is problematic on so many levels. It reduces violence against women to a matter of male or community honour. It trivializes the experience of violence. It diminishes the humanity of women. It is an example of the kind of misogyny that must be penalised at election time, through the denial of a ticket or at least, the denial of a vote," said Swarna Rajagopalan, the founder of Prajnya, an organisation working on women’s rights and gender based violence.
She added: "The prettier campaigner comment (by Vinay Katiyar) is also an insult to the electorate. It implies that voters are stargazing or voyeurs and not interested in the issues. Why should anyone vote for someone who thinks so little about them?"
Prajnya came out with a gender equality checklist for political parties last year, which has dos and don'ts when it comes to nominating candidates for polls. “Do not nominate those facing charges relating to sexual and gender-based violence unless and until a court absolves them, and do not nominate those guilty of sexist and misogynistic speech," the checklist says.
But will political parties take hate speech against women seriously enough to act on them?