‘Modern Indian women don't want to give birth’: Karnataka Min draws flak for remark

Several womens' organisations, activists and journalists criticised the Karnataka Health Minister's remark, calling it ‘sexist, patriarchal and inappropriate.’
Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar
Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar
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Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar is being criticised for his claim that modern Indian women ‘want to stay single,’ and are unwilling to give birth even after marriage and desire children by surrogacy and for saying that this is “not a good thing.” The minister was addressing an event held to mark World Mental Health Day on Sunday, October 10, at Bengaluru’s National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS).

"Today, I am sorry to say this, lots of modern women in India want to stay single. Even if they get married, they don't want to give birth. They want surrogacy. So there is a paradigm shift in our thinking, which is not good," he said.

Lamenting the "western influence" on Indian society, the minister said people are not willing to let their parents be with them. "Unfortunately, today we are going in a western way. We don't want our parents to live with us, forget about grandparents being with us," the minister said. Speaking about mental health in India, Sudhakar said every seventh Indian has some kind of mental issue, which could be mild, moderate and severe. However, according to him, stress management is an art that Indians do not need to learn, but need to preach to the world on how to handle.

"Stress management is an art. This art we need not learn as Indians. We need to preach to the world how to handle stress, because yoga, meditation and Pranayama are the wonderful tools that our ancestors had taught the world thousands of years back," he said.

However, his remarks about women have been criticised by many online. All India Democratic Women's Association Vice President Vimala KS told IANS that it is a woman’s choice whether they want to have children or not and that such a statement coming from a state Health Minister is not appropriate

"It is the freedom of women whether to have a baby or not. He must have forgotten that a large section of women in this country do not have the rights over their bodies," she said. "Being a minister, issuing a sweeping statement is not good and while being a Health Minister, is not acceptable. Let minister Sudhakar prove his statement. How many women have these choices? Like women, many men do not want to have children. Why does no one say anything to them?" Vimala asked. 

Equal rights activist Brinda Adige told IANS that Sudhakar's statement is "sexist, patriarchal, and unbecoming of a minister." 

"He is talking about a minuscule number of people and his statement is not based on research. He is making statements on women's choices which is what we do not want...Look at our laws. There is hardly any support from the government for mothers. How many government officers offer the service of creches... big corporate houses... what support are they giving?" she asked. It is not only giving birth, it involves looking after the children. If at all the government wanted to make statements it should have spoken how they can help mothers, Adige added.

Kannada actor and social activist Chetan Ahimsa also criticised the remark and tweeted saying, “Health Min Sudhakar regressively claims it’s ‘not good’ that many women today dont want marriage or children. Why should women when they face the brunt of patriarchy via dowry/wedding expenses/curbed freedoms/sole parental responsibility? If you care about women, fix the problems.”

Another Twitter user, Katyusha tweeted, “No matter how much India progresses, the average Indian man will not change.”

Several journalists also took to Twitter to condemn the remark. “Ah! The modern woman of India, source of all problems. If only women would marry and stay at home we would solve unemployment, poverty, petrol and LPG prices, lack of hospital beds, potholed roads, electricity shortage, crime and hunger,” Faye D’Souza tweeted. Others pointed out that it was a “bizarre statement” to make on World Mental Health day.

With IANS and PTI inputs

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