Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal (now BJP member) on record said some objectionable and vile things about Jaya Bachchan and indirectly comparing her to a dancer. This incident is not one-off because many politicians cutting across party lines (Digvijaya Singh, Giriraj Singh, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Sharad Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Abu Asim Azmi, Sanjay Nirupam, Yogi Adityanath, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Abhijit Mukherjee; the list is unending) have said some nasty and unparliamentary things about not only female MPs but women in general.
Indian politicians especially male ones have been guilty of intentionally or unintentionally of berating, looking down upon and having a very misogynistic and sexist mindset. So, why our male politicians behave like this? The root cause of the problem is the archaic, regressive and dumb mindset. Have you ever noticed when a rape case happens, male parliamentarians will shame the victim and will give theories on how she should not wear short clothes, should not venture alone at night, should not go to the bar and some ludicrous theories about women’s place in society.
Indian parliament is the biggest handicap for women because we still haven’t passed women’s reservation bill and many male MPs were against this bill because they thought it would reduce their participation in parliament. Apart from Sushma Swaraj (External Affairs) and Nirmala Sitharaman (Defence) not many female politicians get meaty portfolios and is again a symptom of sexism and inferiority propagated by man.
Another factor is patriarchy and aversion to any kind of change in the system. Male politicians during public rallies will not talk about female MPs intelligence, qualification, ability, but will talk about their looks, colour of their skin, their prettiness and will garner votes by relying upon superficial factors and not substance.
Many Indian male politicians are misogynistic and sexist because our society is like that, for this to change we have to change our mindset, which is anti-women and anti-equality. If a change has to happen then the likes of Naresh Agarwal, Digvijaya Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav should be held accountable for their statements and there should be consequences for it. Male politicians have been empowered by their respective political parties to make dubious statements and get away with it.
It was heartening to see External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj coming in defence of Jaya Bachchan and taking on Agrawal for his offensive comments. Another reason is lack of understanding on how to speak in public and sometimes male MPs get carried away and say some despicable things. Indian politicians are very spoilt and privileged class and despite many of them being educated, chief ministers, cabinet ministers, many MPs are very insensitive towards the other sex and it’s the arrogance of power and status which is responsible for sexism and misogyny.
Post Script: World’s oldest and largest democracies i.e. America and India respectively have a head of states who are not exactly champion of women’s rights. We are talking about Donald Trump and Narendra Modi and both have been known to make crude and uncivil statements towards women. Trump ran his 2016 presidential campaign on patriarchy and machismo (Hollywood Access tape) and Modi has deliberately made sexist comments in his political career (Sunanda Pushkar, estranged wife Jashodaben, Renuka Chowdhury). If we want a definite change then our leaders have to behave like a statesman and set an example for fellow politicians.