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Thursday, February 25, 2021

It’s 2021 and our leaders need to learn to respect women

A lawmaker from the Congress party has been caught on camera threatening a woman officer.

It’s 2021! When will our netas and leaders learn to respect women?

A lawmaker from the Congress party has been caught on camera threatening a woman officer, days after a controversy over a former Madhya Pradesh minister from the party making regressive comments against women. 

Shared widely across social media platforms, the clip of the incident shows Congress MLA Harsh Vijay Gehlot talking aggressively with sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Kamini Thakur.

“You are a woman. Had you been a man I would have held you by the collar and then handed the memo to you,” Gehlot can be heard saying in the video.

The incident took place on Sunday, January 17, in Ratlam district’s Sailana town near the Madhya Pradesh-Rajasthan border. The Congress had taken out a tractor rally in support of farmers protesting around Delhi and against the centre’s three contentious laws.

A crowd later led by the MLA reached the SDM’s office to submit a memorandum. That is when Kamini Thakur took time to step out, and Gehlot threatened her publicly.

The Madhya Pradesh state Congress unit has been making headlines recently for misogynistic comments by its leaders.

Reacting to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan calling for a national debate on raising the minimum age of marriage, former minister Sajjan Singh Verma of the Congress had said: “When girls can reproduce at 15 years, why raise their marriageable age from 18 to 21 years?”

This comment, which sparked massive controversy, came as a fortnight-long public awareness drive was launched on January 14 as crimes against women are rising in Madhya Pradesh.

The minister’s comment prompted BJP to demand an apology and that he be sacked from the party.

Time for people in power to learn to respect women

It is high time for those in power to realise that no matter what their position is, they cannot get away with disrespecting women. As citizens of the country, we want to look up to the people we vote to power. We want to believe that these people, with great power and greater responsibilities, will do what it takes for the betterment of the nation.

In April 2014, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav said, “boys will be boys, they commit mistakes”, while opposing the death penalty of three men who were found guilty in a gangrape case. He further blamed girls for inviting rape by getting friendly with boys. 

No, we cannot forgive people who make such remarks. Politician or no, there should be strict action against anyone who thinks it is okay to make such comments. 

The National Crime Record Bureau’s “Crime in India” 2019 report released on September 29, 2019, has revealed that crimes against women increased 7.3 per cent from 2018 to 2019. The annual report said that on an average, 87 rape cases were reported daily, and a total of 4,05,861 cases of crime against women were reported during 2019. Meanwhile, in 2018, India had reported 3,78,236 cases of crimes against women.

Making such remarks is not to be taken lightly. It is because of society justifying rape and pinning the blame on women that we have failed to progress as a nation.

Following the horrific Hathras gangrape case, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Ballia MP Surendra Singh, said that sanskar (values) should be instilled in girls to prevent incidents of rape. “Even if the government flaunts swords before the rapists, that won’t help in stopping such crimes unless parents teach their daughters to dress properly,” he said. 

No, sir. All you need to blame for a rape that takes place, is the rapists’ mindset. 

In 2013, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh made a disrespectful remark towards Rahul Gandhi’s aide Meenakshi Natrajan as “sau tunch maal” (desirable object).

Women are not ‘objects’. How many more crimes, how many more incidents of sexual assault and how many more nationwide protests do we need to understand this simple fact?

In 2013, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said, “Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such cases will not happen in “Bharat” or the rural areas of India. In villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang-rape or sex crimes.”

How many more horrifying rapes will it take to make us realise that rapes happen everywhere, and we need to hold the criminal accountable no matter which part of the country the crime is committed in?

Samajwadi Party’s Abu Azmi in 2014 was slammed when he said, “If a woman is caught (in a rape case), then both she and the boy should be punished. In India, there is the death penalty for rape, but when there’s consensual sex outside marriage, there’s no death penalty against women.”

Slamming such people is not enough. Despite years and years of women being suppressed in a patriarchal, male-dominant society, our netas show little interest in bringing about a change. Victim-blaming, slut-shaming, objectification, and mistreatment of women are normalised in our society every day, by the very people who should fight against such evil.

In the recent incident involving Gehlot,  disrespecting a woman officer in full public view (or anywhere otherwise) is unacceptable. We need to understand that a man, such a Gehlot, is only able to behave this way because they know that our legal system is such that they will get away with it. Our leaders, especially, know that it is easier for them than other people to not respect a woman, and they know that they are hardly held accountable for their actions.

It’s high time and we must protest harder than we ever have. We have to understand that insulting women, making misogynistic comments and justifying sexual assault need to be treated as crimes.

So leaders, if we elect you to power, it is your responsibility to change the country for the greater good, and you have to respect women. If you are wrong, we will hold you accountable.

No, there is no getting away.

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