Yogi Adityanath statement on women’s dignity: On September 22, at an event in Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that if someone played with the dignity of women, he will face the same fate as Duryodhan and Dushasan from the mythological epic Mahabharata.
The political usage of words like dignity, respect when addressing sexual crimes against women is extremely problematic and manipulative because putting women on a pedestal doesn’t do much to ensure their welfare and only reduces the matter to political banter intending to secure votes.
However, logic has hardly ever discouraged politicians in India from reducing sexual crimes to a political agenda.
During his speech, Yogi Aditynath warned “the goons” who play with the dignity of “sisters” and “daughters” going to school. According to a PTI report, he said that “If someone plays with the dignity of women, he will meet the same fate as that of Duryodhan and Dushasan in Mahabharat.” In the same breath, he labelled Samajwadi Party (SP) as ‘anti-woman, anti-Dalit, anti-backward, anti-Hindu and anti-children’. Keep in mind that legislative elections in the state are scheduled for the early part of 2022.
In October 2020, CM Yogi Adityanath, during the launch of Mission Shakti had emphasised the ‘safety, dignity and empowerment of women and girls in Uttar Pradesh. Not to forget the anti-Romeo Squad- one of the initiatives to safeguard women’s security. These measures have come in light of multiple reports of brutal sexual crimes that have emerged from the state in recent times. According to the National Crime Records Bureau in 2019, Uttar Pradesh accounted for 59,853 crimes against women, which is 14 percent of the national total.
For Indian society, women’s dignity is an object meant to be safeguarded or looted, based on one’s agenda. Our respect is glued to the honour of our families, our identity and even our eligibility to get married. What about the perpetrators who commit sexual crimes? Do they lose dignity or honour? Why is the focus not on conditioning men to understand consent and never objectify women? Despite harsh punishments for sexual crimes, why does India continue to have so many incidences of rape, sexual assaults and harassment? Do threats of a violent end even deter criminals? If not, then what’s the point of instigating violence against sex offenders?
The word “dignity” has not been used by Yogi Adityanath alone, multiple politicians have used this word, sometimes even to police women.
Former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand irath Singh Rawar criticised women for wearing ripped jeans while wondering aloud what values will these women be imparting to their children during a workshop in March this year. Later, his wife Rashmi Tyagi defended him through a video saying that the comment was made in reference to women’s responsibility to safeguard cultural heritage and identity. The comment led to an outrage, people started a trend of wearing ripped jeans and uploading photographs online as a mark of protest against the statement made. It has also been used by ministers in their discussion of Love Jihad where the entire purpose is said to be safeguarding the dignity of ‘Hindu’ women.
Such comments are shocking, but not uncommon. Since the honour of any community–religious, national, ethnic– seems to be resting with women, become the embodiment of izzat. What our society and politicians forget that it is not women’s honour that needs policing, it is the intent of men that needs a thorough assessment.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
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