‘World’s biggest democracy’ is a title that both India and the USA have contested. The irony lies in the fact that both suffer from xenophobia, racism, corruption but their lowest common denominator lies in the form of patriarchy. While in one political environment, people cannot accept being lead by a woman, in the other, women who lead are often brought down.

Gazal Shekhawat reports on just what is it that lies behind this conundrum. And why can’t women in politics be contested on power and shrewdness rather than their gender, looks, size or colour?

When a woman politician is successful, her femininity is often distanced from her political image but the moment she is discovered to have demerits, the insults and faults are immediately targeted towards her gender. Who are the people behind such ideas? What about the legacy of women leaders in India? What sense do we make of the presence of women politicians but the absence of equality when it comes to judging them?

The people behind the sexism:

When it comes to pointing out sexism against women politicians the abundance of instances can exhaust the word limit of this article. To answer the question, remarks have come from all sides, left right and centre but unsurprisingly, they have been male. From Congress leader Digvijay Singh calling one of his own party members, Meenakshi Natrajan ‘sau tunch maal’ to JDU leader Sharad Yadav calling the possible beneficiaries of the women’s reservation bill, ‘par kati aurtein.‘ For those who feel these jibes are harmless, they get even more vicious.

In a viral video, Trinamool MP threatened that he will tell his party boys to go and rape CPM women and it was only last year that, then UP vice president for the BJP, Dayashankar Singh called Mayawati ‘worse than a prostitute.’  Such remarks are not only demeaning but also paint a misleading picture India’s rich history of brave women who have been a part of its political legacy.

The legacy of women leaders:

India has suffered from feudal patriarchy, but it has also seen leaders like Kamla Devi Chattopadhyay who in 1926 became the first Indian woman to contest elections ;( in comparison, French women got the right to vote in 1945).  In 1963 Sucheta Kriplani became the first chief minister of an Indian state and when it comes naming one of India’s most fierce prime ministers, Indira Gandhi’s mention is indispensable.  Presently, there are more women in the Lok Sabha since at any point in Indian history and regional politics has seen the rise of women leaders, from Mamta Banerjee to Mehbooba Mufti.

Make sense of these narratives:

Our country lies somewhere between both these contrasts and to fill the gaps, we have to build bridges in our own minds. When a woman politician is corrupt, she foremost a bad politician, bringing up her gender and insulting robs our thinking of objectivity. Without creating an environment which is inclusive towards women in politics and at other fields of life, steps like one third reservation will be rendered ineffective. Just like ‘biggest democracy in the world’, another slogan has been doing rounds: ‘The future is female.’ and to advance towards that goal, the present needs to be sensitive to females.

Gazal is an intern with SheThePeople.TV