The Run-up to Bihar Elections: Seasoned with Sexism
What do the Bihar assembly elections and my 8th grade math class have in common? Both are based entirely on arithmetic. Speaking of which, the numerical figure 33% has gotten the best of Bihar’s MP’s. From going into sexist rants with terms like “parkati” (a pejorative for short –haired women), to dramatic gestures like threatening to consume poison over the passage of 33% reservation for women in the parliament, Bihar MP’s have done and said it all.
While the BJP and the JD (U)-RJD have locked horns over the electoral battle in Bihar, the battle for gender justice remains stalled. While representatives of BJP and JD (U) have made tall claims of passing the Women’s Reservation Bill, their MP’s and ministers have often displayed unabashed indulgence in sexist and patriarchal mind-sets and stereotypes.
While the battle for 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies aka, the Women’s Reservation Bill is still on, the position of political parties in Bihar over the Women’s Reservation Bill has been highly inconsistent and fraught with vote-bank considerations. The “quota within quota” argument has been used by parties as an excuse to delay and drag their feet.
The Bihar political front may be splintered, but all regional parties stand united in their opposition to the Women’s Reservation Bill. Even though the Janata Dal (United) has supported the bill in Rajya Sabha, senior party leaders like Sharad Yadav have expressed a staunch and resounding opposition to the Bill, often in the most controversial fashion. For our netas, a comment peppered with patriarchy, or a statement seasoned with sexism makes for the best recipe for winning elections.
While discussing incidents of rape the Bihar Youth Affairs Minister Binay Bihari had said, “Many students misuse mobile phones by watching blue films and hearing obscene songs which pollute their mind”. Such was the manner in which Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi had expressed his concern for Bihari migrants, “If you go and work outside Bihar, how would you know what your wife is doing in your absence?
Giriraj Singh, the BJP MP took us back to the stone-age with his remark about Congress not accepting Sonia Gandhi as the party president had she not been a fair-skinned lady. While, Lalu Prasad Yadav came up with an even more sexist retort to criticize Singh’s remark, “He should be made to wear bangles, vermilion, bindi, and his face should be blackened as he has crossed the limit of indecency”.
Earlier his Year, Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav took the lead on sexism during a debate on insurance in the Rajya Sabha, with these shocking remarks, “The body of women from south is as good as beautiful they are. They (women) in our region are not that good as those (in south) know dancing.” When MP Smriti Irani raised an objection, she was immediately shown the laxman rekha with the comment “I know what you are”, in the Rajya Sabha.
In 2013 during the debate in Parliament over Women’s Reservation Bill, Shara
d Yadav had addressed women as ‘par kati mahilayein’ (short-haired women). Opposing the passage of the Bill, he had then said, “I will consume poison and die here but not allow the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill.”
The battle gong has sounded and while the candidates are busy promising the moon to the voters, there is little introspection over the misplaced gendered common-sense of their sitting MP’s by the parties. The Women’s Reservation Bill is no talking point in the Bihar Assembly elections, and the misogynist statements of the MP’s is a clear sign of why. With the voices against patriarchy, getting shriller and louder by the day maybe the time has come, to consume the poison.
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