Shafiqur Rahman Barq, a senior leader of the Samajwadi Party (SP), is drawing outrage for remarking that "aawargi" (loafing) will increase if the legal age of marriage for women is increased from 18 to 21. In his comments, made Friday to the media, he added that people in a "poor country" like India were inclined to marry their daughters off at young ages.
Barq's statements come in the wake of the Union Cabinet's momentous decision to clear the proposal for raising the legal marriageable age for women in India; read here.
In what may be a long-awaited push towards changing the culture of marrying women off as soon as they enter adulthood, the bill could spotlight focus on women's education and empowerment. Read an opinion on it here.
Suggested Reading: Lie Back And Enjoy: How Dare A Politician Talk Like That About Rape!
91-year-old Barq has, however, said he will not support the bill in Parliament. If the marriageable age is increased, women will get more chances to "loaf around" and wander about, Barq told the media.
In subsequent statements after a video of his previous ones went viral, he said his "aawargi" remark was misrepresented and he never used the word. "I said that situation is not conducive."
The controversy surrounding Barq comes in the wake of another that finds senior Congress leader KR Ramesh Kumar of the Karnataka Assembly in its midst. On Thursday, Kumar made a deeply sexist comment in the Assembly about lying back and "enjoying" rape when it is "inevitable." What many on social media found worse was that Kumar's rape joke evoked laughter from other leaders seated in the house.
His comments were widely criticised, both by netizens and opposition leaders, many of whom have demanded swift action against Kumar. More here.
Following backlash, Kumar in an apology said, "If it hurts the sentiments of women, I’ve no problem apologising." Saying his remarks were off the cuff, Kumar claimed he would choose his words carefully in the future. Read an opinion on the incident here.