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Politics in India is by default a dirty game riddled with sexist and patriarchal mindsets, that tries to keep women politicians ‘in their place’ over irrelevant things.
When in the 1960s Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), Sirimavo Banadaranaike became the first woman to be elected as the head of a government, a revolution for women in politics was unfurled.
History has been a grand witness to the political resplendence of women, but even more so of their derision by the hands of patriarchy. In India, the prejudice against women holding power and the rigid notions of their position in society have been age old encumbrances for females willing to participate in the politics of the country.
The boys’ club within the political spectrum of India keeps women at bay when it comes to real decision making power and serving in a substantial position. There are 176 male MPs as compared to the 78 women MPs in the Lok Sabha and just 20 out of the 240 MPs are women in the Rajya Sabha. These statistics clearly show the exiguous opportunities given to women when it comes to holding electoral posts.
Women emerging on the political forefront have historically been met with unflagging opposition all over the world – from the police brunt and sexual assault faced by suffragettes of England, to the modern day world where female candidates are regularly met with unjustified moral scrutiny, objectification, dubiety, and are overtly attacked only for the virtue of being a woman.
Female politicians in India, as soon as they step into the political fray, somehow become the subject of attack by an insecure patriarchy. We as a society, became the axiom for hypocrisy when Mimi Chakroborty and Nusrat Jahan, both MPs from Jadavpur and Basirhat constituencies respectively, were put on a social media trial for wearing western clothes on their first day to the parliament, while Gautam Gambhir in his denims was comfortably overlooked, as no one criticized him for his choice of clothes. The incessant trolling and hatred did not end there, these women were slut shamed, were called out for having tattoos, and also for something as simple as clicking a picture.
This particular incident renders an understanding of the ingrained culture of our society, where ‘shaming‘ on these aspects is always reserved for women, especially for women in power.
An MP is a lawmaker and one’s appearance is not supposed to be the parameter of their ability, but in India, a woman politician’s clothing choices is directly proportional to her caliber as a public servant. When women join politics, working with integrity, and competence is not the only requirement, they also need to have an extra skill for bearing the regressive sexists remarks passed against them, and India is nowhere short of such examples.
According to a report in India Today, a male politician from a prominent party said that, Priyanka Gandhi was not as beautiful as she was projected to be and that there were prettier women leaders like Smriti Irani who could pull crowds and give better speeches.
It isn’t only male politicians who’re being sexist, even women politicians are entering into this pathetic political tactic. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati has always been a popular target for her looks. Once a woman spokesperson from a popular Indian party remarked that she does not know if Mayawati was a he or she – attacking Mayawati’s gender identity induced from outdated stereotypes of what constitutes ‘womanliness’.
When Smriti Irani was moved from Human Resource Development to Textiles, a politician allegedly made an insulting remark on her saying that “Good that she has been elected as the Textiles minister; it will help her cover her body.” The politician in question has since denied that he said this.
While male politicians are surrounded with debates about political issues and development, women politicians almost always have to bear comments about their appearance and their choice of clothes termed as a common political discourse.
Indian political framework has a penchant for misogyny, derogatory remarks, and inherent patriarchal entitlements, but until when will women have to rethink the idea of entering into politics, solely because this so called male bastion refuses to accept a woman in power? How difficult is it to accept a woman politician without being prejudiced against her gender?
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20. I am pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. I come from
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