Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's address on the role of women's education in population control had irked many netizens and Opposition leaders for the usage of suggestive language. The CM has now apologised and said, "I have always maintained that education is necessary for population control. I have also stood for women's empowerment and development... I self-condemn myself and take all the statements back.”
Nitish Kumar made the controversial statements while addressing the caste survey in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha on November 7, detailing the rise in female literacy. The CM had claimed, in graphic detail, that educated women know how not to get pregnant as they can restrain their husbands during sexual intercourse. He made analogies of women's education with the difference in fertility rates over the years saying, "Earlier the fertility rate was 4.3, but it has now reached 2.9. And, soon we will reach 2,"
What was wrong in Nitish Kumar's speech?
Aside from the use of what many deemed as vulgar language, Kumar's speech also exposes the gender bias in sex education in India. The Bihar CM's remarks that an educated woman would "know when to restrain her partner," suggests that the responsibility of controlling pregnancy is solely on the woman. He also went on to suggest that men's actions are certain to lead to more pregnancies, but an educated woman can control him, suggesting that males have no need for accountability.
In lieu of promoting the importance of consent, family planning, use of contraceptives, and practising safe sex, CM Kumar's remarks are suggestive of using unsafe methods of birth control. With several acts of sexual offences, perpetrated even by minors, coming to light every day, sex education has become an urgent need.
Sex education is no joking matter, especially in India, but the assembly at Bihar Vidhan Sabha seemed to have a good chuckle at the way the Chief Minister described the matter, with his use of exaggerated hand gestures and suggestive language. Even the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav was seen laughing but later tried to paint it as "sex education" when the media questioned the CM.
Reactions from Women Leaders
The BJP Mahila Morcha held a protest in Delhi on November 8, condemning the Bihar CM's remarks.
VIDEO | BJP Mahila Morcha stages protest in Delhi against Bihar CM Nitish Kumar after his statement in the state Assembly on women's education over population control triggered a row. pic.twitter.com/rkSLAMNi3o— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) November 8, 2023
The National Commission for Women (NCW) as well as Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) deemed Nitish Kumar's words as "egregiously insensitive" and demanded an apology from him. NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma said that his words lacked dignity and were deeply concerning.
#WATCH | Delhi: On Bihar CM Nitish Kumar's statement on population control, NCW's Chairperson Rekha Sharma says, "Yesterday's statement of Bihar CM was derogatory, we are deeply concerned with this...The way he spoke was like a C Grade movie dialogue in the Assembly in front of… pic.twitter.com/MddakkdygF— ANI (@ANI) November 8, 2023
The NCW minister then took to X (formerly Twitter) and tagged women leaders from the INDIAlliance and urged them to demand an apology from him.
Shiv Sena (UBT)'s Priyanka Chaturvedi however, responded to Sharma claiming the NCW has been silent in other instances when asked to come in support of women. This jibe led to an online argument between the women leaders.
My dear biased, politically motivated Madam, I do unequivocally condemn any language used for women which is derogatory-irrespective of my politics, even if it comes from an ally. I am also certain that Chief Minister will revisit his usage of words and apologise. Unfortunately… https://t.co/iRrhRSbfa7— Priyanka Chaturvedi🇮🇳 (@priyankac19) November 7, 2023
Coming to the CM's Defence
Speaking to the media, Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav said, "It is wrong to misinterpret what the CM said. He was discussing sex education for population control, which people think of as a taboo, but it is even being taught to children in schools."
#WATCH | Patna: On Bihar CM Nitish Kumar's inappropriate comments in the assembly, Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav says, "Let me tell you one thing. It is wrong if someone misinterprets it. The statement of the CM was regarding sex education. People are hesitant whenever the topic… pic.twitter.com/0hwWD4oqr8— ANI (@ANI) November 7, 2023
Suggested Reading: Rape Is About Teaching Women To Stay In Line, In Control & In Fear!