In A Sexist Tweet, Madhya Pradesh MLA Compared Centre’s Failed Ventures To Having Daughters

Madhya Pradesh MLA Jitu Patwari's sexist remark about "waiting for Vikas" is in very poor taste, and not OK in a country with rampant female foeticide and widespread violence against women. 

Madhya Pradesh MLA Jitu Patwari’s sexist remark about “waiting for Vikas” is in very poor taste, and not OK in a country with rampant female foeticide and widespread violence against women. 

Before saying anything else, I want to clarify that I am not inclined towards any political party. As a citizen of India, I only support parties and politicians who deliver anything and that everything that is the best for the public interest irrespective of religion, class, caste, and background. More than anything else, elected representatives should protect the humane values prescribed in the Indian constitution.

So, I would like to be spared of those arguments that call my rants here anti-Congress or pro-BJP. I have dissented against the problematic ideas as well as statements of the ruling government.

While I was going through the web news portals, I came across this particular comment made by Madhya Pradesh MLA Jitu Patwari where he was mounting his attack on the ruling government’s policies with a horrifying misogynist context.

Wanting ‘Vikas’

Dissenting against the ruling government’s ventures like GST, demonetisation, etc. Patwari tweeted that the central government has only given five daughters when people hoped to get a son, which is “vikas” or development. (The tweet has now been deleted, but screenshots have been shared.)

“Putra ke chakkar mein 5 putri paida ho gayi. 1 notebandi, 2 GST, 3 mehengai, 4 berozgaari, 5 mandi. Parantu abhi tak ‘Vikas’ paida nahi hua.” (In the hope of having a male child, we now have 5 daughters. 1 demonetisation, 2 GST, 3 inflation, 4 unemployment, 5 slowdown. However, Vikas is not born yet.)

In other words, he compared all the liabilities or weaknesses (policies that were bad for people) with daughters while what is good, development, is compared to a son.

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Jitu Patwari is an MLA in the Madhya Pradesh government and was also a former cabinet minister for Higher Education, Sports, and Youth Affairs. He comes from the political party that saw the first woman prime minister of India Indira Gandhi (who was the daughter of India’s first prime minister) and other powerful leaders such as Sheila Dixit, etc.

Sexist remarks not new by politicians

As expected, when he was called out, notably by Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Patwari gave a superficial apology that suggested that he didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s sentiments and that daughters are “divine.”

His tweet read, “Modiji broke the back of the country’s economy with demonetisation, GST, inflation, unemployment, and recession. The public endured all this only in the hope of development. I regret if any sentiments have been hurt.”

Politicians making sexist comments are not a new thing. Women politicians have often been threatened, objectified, and sexualised. Their temperament and strength have been questioned.

The worst way in which male politicians are insulted is by using feminine connotations; “wear a saree”, “are you wearing bangles”, use female private parts as slurs, etc. because that’s how badly womanhood is projected by a chauvinist society. Even a liberal leader like Kanhaiya Kumar uttered “wear a bangle” slur.

Not Ok, in a country that kills its daughters

While the usage of everyday sexism cannot be excused, Patwari’s comments are nothing short of horrifying in a nation that kills daughters.
In a way, he is probably reflecting his own attitude towards daughters, seeing them as “weaknesses” or liabilities that need to be dealt with.

Added to that, India as a nation, have a blot in the form of hostility towards the girl child. Daughters have been murdered after birth. Earlier this year, a man killed his granddaughter by drowning her in the river. Baby girls are abandoned in hospitals, garbage bins, buried alive. etc.

Some numbers on violence against women

Last year, I remember reading news which revealed that in 132 villages of Uttaranchal, not a single girl child was born in three months, and 216 boys were born

Asian Centre for Human Rights, a Delhi-based NGO dedicated to protection of human rights, researched the son preference in India and reported that India has the highest number of female infanticides, in 2018.

Female foetuses are aborted inside the womb as well, not because the mother’s health or autonomy is taken into account but because of persisting gender discrimination.

A 2011 census revealed that the sex ratio of India is 943 girls to 1000 boys. Madhya Pradesh’s sex ratio is 931 girls to 1000 boys.

Which means that there is rampant misogyny haunting at least 6-7% parents of India. One of the major factors that instill hatred towards daughters is the tendency to view them as liabilities or burdens who have to be dismounted from the parent’s back AKA married off, with a dowry. And she goes on to live in another person’s home and carry on their lineage.

Socially constructed customs and casual sexism also prevent women from occupying public spaces compared to men. Added to that, in many households, women’s right to education or have a career is often at the mercy of their husbands or in-laws.

Added to that, the increase in violence against women also inspired parents to think that having a son is safer.

However, with the inclusion of more women in public spaces, jobs, institutions, etc there are both smoother and radical changed and moves to remove gender-based discrimination.

The point I am trying to make is that for decades, women are bursting from the shells of patriarchy. I was reading of how a girl from a poor family topped IAF exams. More women are entering business, politics, law, security enforcement, medicine, etc. It is high time that conversations around daughters and sons change such as the former is not labeled as ‘paraya dhan‘ but individuals.

A very weak ‘apology’ from MLA Patwari

What Patwari ended up doing is adding insult to the injury. As a politician, someone who is influential, who people look up to and listen to, it was reckless of him to make such a statement.

In his apology, he described daughters as “divine.” Daughters need not be called divine to have value. If there is anything that holds them back from getting the value, the respect, and agency they deserve then it is the mindset.

We are hoping to witness a time when women are motivated to achieve more based on their dreams instead of measuring their value.

Every girl is an asset who is capable of helping in building the nation, just don’t clip their wings. More than anything else, don’t compare daughters with “weaknesses” or failed government policies.

MLA Patwari’s apology should be backed by his understanding of the severity of misogynist words, instead of trying to look nice before the media.

Image source: YouTube

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Karthika S Nair

Journalist, movie geek blogger, fitness freak, and foodie.

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