Despite having broken into many male-dominated bastions, women will continue to be seen as objects in India as long as we continue to elect leaders with medieval, patriarchal mindsets. Unfortunately, these leaders —and those of us who elect them—probably don’t even know their notion of womanhood is out of sync with today’s world.
While there might be some truth in the claim that these leaders only reflect the attitude of the majority of men and some women—not just in our nation, but even in the so called ‘modern’ nations like the US of A—it is important to understand their public utterances on rape and other atrocities are far more dangerous, because they encourage the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude, thus absolving men of many heinous acts.
The fact that Donald Trump was elected US president despite his unapologetic public proclivity for sexist remarks is telling. In India, many leaders, particularly from the cow-belt, continue to get away with sexist remarks which evoke nothing but raised eyebrows and perhaps protests, mostly on social media.
But the malaise is not limited to the North. Take the case of TDP MLA Kodela Shiva who recently compared women with cars and asked them to stay ‘parked’ at home to avoid ‘accidents’. Like rape. “When you buy a vehicle like a car, if you keep it parked in garage, then accidents can be avoided, right? But when it’s taken out on roads, accidents are likely to happen,” he declared.
Housewives, for instance, he argued, remain safe from rape because they stay at home. To add to the irony, he was addressing a press conference at the ‘National Women’s Parliament’ in Amaravati. Perhaps it is time we made it mandatory for all those standing for public office to declare their positions on women before they ask for votes, and hold them accountable to it if they stray. Because, if the old saw about democracies getting the leaders they deserve is true, we certainly deserve better.