Toxic words: On the discourse in politics and women politicians

Women should bring down barriers to their own advancement 

March 28, 2024 12:10 am | Updated 08:19 am IST

Congress social media in-charge Supriya Shrinate’s denigrating post on actor Kangana Ranaut, now deleted, is unconscionable. It is unacceptable that instead of apologising, her defence, through a video post, was that many people have access to her Facebook and Instagram accounts, and that someone made an “extremely inappropriate post”. Ms. Ranaut, who is set to contest her maiden election from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket, took to X to castigate Ms. Shrinate, pointing out that women must be freed from “shackles of prejudices” and no one should use the challenging lives of sex workers or their circumstances as “some kind of abuse or slur”. Ms. Ranaut expressed her hurt, and a political storm has erupted over Ms. Shrinate’s needless, pejorative comments ahead of a crucial general election when there are many issues at stake — from the electoral bonds scam, rising unemployment, distress of the poor, shrinking space for freedom of expression and so on. By blaming others for what appeared on her handle, Ms. Shrinate has gone against everything she vouches to stand for, particularly on women. Her colleague Pawan Khera’s clarification that she “can never resort” to such talk also does not cut ice because the “objectionable language” did appear under her name.

By being on the receiving end, Ms. Ranaut too should refrain from equally disparaging remarks such as those she had made in the past against a fellow woman actor who had got an election ticket. For women, challenges persist at home and in the workplace. They face a long road to gender equality which remains frustratingly out of reach. India finally passed a law last year to reserve 33% of seats for women legislators, but there has been no deadline set for its implementation. In the absence of such a commitment, it remains a wish on paper. The initial candidates’ lists show that even the BJP, under whose watch the legislation came into place, is nowhere close to reaching the 33% mark, a key factor that can immediately have a positive outcome for women’s empowerment. When the Women’s Reservation Bill, 2023 was passed, about 14% of the Lok Sabha legislators were women, far below the global average of 26.5%; Himachal Pradesh has only one woman Lok Sabha MP. Women should have a voice in how their lives should be run, and becoming an elected representative is one step towards ensuring policies are made and implemented with them in mind. Women should work towards removing barriers to their advancement, not make the path more difficult.

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