India’s Democratic Politics in 2021: A Saga of Patriarchal Jibe and Defamation
Updated: May 2, 2021
Shubhangi Gehlot, [Law student at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat]
From 2020’s Hathras case to 2021’s Bengal election, there’s one issue constant like the pandemic, which is misogynist comments by politicians on various public platforms without a sense of guilt.
The year is passing with various impediments for the country’s growth including the rise in gender discrimination where India slips 28 places in the World Economic Forum's gender gap index with an appalling rank of 140 among 156 other nations. This includes discrimination based on both social and economic factors through its sub-index statistics depicting aspects whether in terms of intimate violence or economic opportunities. But are the Indian politicians and lawmakers responding to the news with wisdom and a sense of responsibility?
Recently, women in different areas of public work whether Mamta Banerjee or an anonymous social worker experienced atrocious comments by politicians. The comments were as usual based on defining the morality and bodily integrity of womanhood. For instance, when Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal was blamed and mocked by Dilip Ghosh, another Indian politician, for showing her legs in the attire of saree by providing an unsolicited suggestion to wear Bermuda to avoid Bengal’s cultural adulteration. Though he owns the right to criticise her on the work she did as a leader but labelling her acts as a dishonoured woman proves the patriarchal nature of Indian politics. Similarly, Tirath Singh Rawat, Uttarakhand Chief Minister criticised women for wearing ripped jeans and questioned what values they will be able to give to their children by narrating his experience when he saw an NGO worker with her kids on an aeroplane. Once again this instance proved that women working in social and political fields will be condemned predominantly on their private life choices and patriarchal notions of womanhood. These accusers are not sorry for their ignorant speeches with no repercussions of the same but the question arises what is the reason behind it?
Our defamation laws may be utilized when there’s a #Metoo tweeted against a politician but failed to be applied on the cases where the right to equality and the equal treatment laid down by the Constitution is violated by politicians against their female colleagues.
Moreover, these defaming and sexist comments like Ghosh’s leads to the analysis on why our laws and policies are inclined more towards protecting and tracking women rather than keeping an eye on the wrongdoer. The recent Madhya Pradesh’s proposal for women’s safety is a personification for these kinds of protectionist policies where the victim’s right to move around freely is also breached besides assisting patriarchal mindset where a woman needs to be surveilled in the name of “protection”.
Though it is clear through Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, every person regardless of their profession and gender has the right to ‘dignity and bodily integrity but politicians choose sexist rants as an easier means to demean women representing the opposition.
Secondly, this field consists of women as minorities with recent election data of various states which shows that there is less than 11 per cent. This examines the submissive position of women as lawmakers where they won’t be considered an equal part to have a policy or law. Thus, this creates an environment to bully and catcall them at various public gatherings while considering them just a face to represent the party in the name of women empowerment. Additionally, an Amnesty report of 2020 shows that one in every seven tweets which mentioned women politicians in India were sexist and abusive. Despite this being a bigger problem, lawmakers fail to acknowledge the issue, rather they appreciate male candidates with criminal charges relating to violence against women entering into their parties.
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) places an assertive obligation on nations to take all required measures to end ‘any kind of discrimination, as declared in Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). These guidelines are covered in the Indian Constitution in several ways through Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy but remain unsuccessful in its actual implementation. Where our participation rights are similar to all human rights regardless of gender and sexuality, but the authorities fail to apply them when needed much.
Besides the Constitution, many legislations have been enacted to protect women’s rights as a part of basic human rights but still lack in their effective execution as desired. Furthermore, there need to be stringent laws to avoid these derogatory and demeaning acts, especially based on gender acts, on the part of politicians. This will also probably enhance the rights and power to express and draw critical attention towards the grotesque behaviour of sexist politicians by several women politicians in the public arena.