Last week Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Delhi Mrs Sheila Dikshit made a ridiculous and atrocious statement. She said, “The gang rape of Jyoti Singh was blown all out of proportion.” She further went on to say that, “There are so many cases like this taking place today,” and passed the buck on responsibility to the Central Government.
At the end of the day, what is political? As women are we not part of society? Are we not entitled to safety?
Mrs.Dikshit may have done a lot of great work during her tenure as CM of Delhi. But her current statements on the gangrape are totally unjustified. Trivialising rape and crime against women causes much damage. It normalises violence. As a leader one, must be responsible in what one shares because words can be taken to heart by one’s supporters and can influence them.
In particular, as a woman and as a person who has dedicated her life to working on gender rights, I found her comments to be shocking and outrageous. I posted the article on social media and shared my opinion about it, just like I do when any other leader or person in a position of power says something similar. For instance, when U.S. President Donald Trump spoke about “grabbing pussies” or Yogi Adityanath said women should not be given freedom or even the Catholic Church when they did not do enough to protect the Indian nuns from sexual assault.
A gentleman commented on my Facebook timeline saying whilst he respected me and my work at Safecity, he believed that I do not have the necessary expertise to make political comments. He encouraged me to stick to what I know and refrain from posting opinions on politics as I would run the risk of alienating those like him who do not agree.
This is another way of policing a woman. From a young age, most girls are encouraged to be seen and not heard. This social conditioning makes it hard for women and girls to be outspoken and challenge authority. As a woman you are made to feel like you don’t count, and your voice is not important.
There are many examples where women political candidates are not taken seriously even if they are intelligent and make sense. Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren in their Presidential campaigns are testimony to the fact. At corporate and high-level meetings, women’s opinions and voices are overlooked. The most famous example is the one of the women in President Barack Obama’s cabinet who had to echo each other just to ensure their point was heard. And in everyday life, there are constant examples of mansplaining including a ridiculous one where a man tried to explain child birth to Kiran Manral, a mother and an author.
From a young age, most girls are encouraged to be seen and not heard.
As someone else countered to this man’s comment on my Facebook post, “a thinking woman’s opinion is often inconvenient”.
It is inconvenient to break the systems of oppression. It means confronting our own unconscious bias, misogyny and patriarchy, which need a constant check.
At the end of the day, what is political? As women are we not part of society? Are we not entitled to safety? If there is an injustice being done should we not call it out? Is it only the men who have the right to share an opinion? After all isn’t the personal made political by these statements and the political becomes personal when it affects the rights of some?
As Madeleine Albright famously said, “It took me a long time to find my voice. And now that I have found it, I am going to use it.”. I’d add – “No matter how inconvenient others may find it.”
The views expressed are author’s own.