PM Modi draws criticism for "despite being a woman" remark

Modi's comment on Sheikh Hasina grabs eyeballs for the wrong reasons.

Updated - November 16, 2021 07:15 pm IST

Published - June 08, 2015 05:07 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s admiration for his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina’s crackdown on terror was not registered as a compliment on social media, as a reference made to her gender was perceived as prejudiced and sexist.

On Sunday, > addressing an audience at the Dhaka University in Bangladesh, Prime Minister Modi had said he applauds Prime Minister Hasina for declaring zero-tolerance against terrorism “despite being a woman” — it was this reference to her gender that set off the criticism.

Mr. Modi who is an avid user of Twitter and is among the most followed world leaders on the microblogging site, was trending for the wrong reasons as #DespiteBeingAWoman, the hashtag created to register protest over his reference grabbed eyeballs.

Offended by the patriarchal tone of the Prime Minister’s reference to their gender, women posted their disapproval on Twitter. “@narendramodi ji such sexiest remark is not expected of u sir!We look upto u...u put us down!Disappointed.#DespiteBeingAWoman” tweeted Ruchi Jain.

Some were quick to make a reference to late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who helped Bangladesh in its quest for liberation, others made a mention of the women achievers. Dhairya Ingle ‏@dhairya tweeted: “#DespiteBeingAWoman v hv Tessy Thomas, who does a tight-rope walk between home and career, n bcomes associate project director of Agni-III”.

Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) however took exception to what the Prime Minister said, pointing out that the reference to Ms. Hasina’s gender was “derogatory” and therefore, merits “an apology.”

Speaking to The Hindu , she said: “What does he mean by despite being a woman; we have seen whenever there is a threat to the unity and the social fabric of this country, women have never taken a step back. This perception that they are weak and not capable shows what the head of this country thinks about its women.”

Academician and writer Madhu Kishwar however came out in support of Mr. Modi’s statement, pointing out that the reference to her gender was meant to be a compliment and was being misinterpreted.

“What he meant to say was that she is taking tough measures against terror, even as men who are in charge have been soft-pedalling over the issue. It was meant to be a compliment that despite being a woman, Sheikh Hasina is succeeding where men have been petrified,” Ms. Kishwar told The Hindu .

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