Who Is Pramila Jayapal? 5 Controversies Of Indian-American Congresswoman

Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a prominent figure in the Democratic Party, has recently found herself amid controversy, particularly regarding her response to Hamas' sexual violence against Israeli women.

Oshi Saxena
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Image Credits : Pramila Jayapal Twitter

Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal recently found herself in the spotlight following a heated exchange with CNN host Dana Bash during which she confronted the Congresswoman about the conspicuous silence of progressive women, who are typically vocal on women's rights issues, regarding Hamas' sexual violence against Israeli women during the October 7 massacre. However, this is hardly Jayapal's first brush with controversy. Let's delve into the life and career of this prominent figure, exploring five key controversies, including the recent clash over the Democrat's silence on Hamas' actions.


Born in Chennai, India, Pramila Jayapal moved to the United States at the age of 16. Today, at 57, she holds the distinction of being the first immigrant to serve in a leadership role for the House Judiciary Committee's panel on immigration. Her journey from an immigrant with nothing in her pockets to a prominent Congresswoman is a testament to the American Dream.

Activism and Advocacy

Before entering Congress, Jayapal was a dedicated organizer and activist for immigrants' rights. Her organization, OneAmerica, played a pivotal role in preventing the deportation of thousands of Somalis after the 9/11 attacks. Her commitment to immigrant rights earned her recognition as a Champion of Change by the Obama White House.

MeToo Movement and Family Separation Protest

Jayapal's involvement in the We Belong Together campaign showcased her dedication to women's rights. She even faced arrest during a civil disobedience demonstration protesting the Trump administration's family separation policy.  She co-chaired the We Belong Together campaign, mobilizing women for common-sense immigration reform to keep families together and empower women. Her actions reflect a commitment to justice and compassion for vulnerable populations.

Controversy on CNN's State of the Union


Recently, Jayapal faced scrutiny during an interview on CNN's State of the Union with Dana Bash. The host questioned her and other progressive women's silence on Hamas' sexual violence against Israeli women. She highlighted the stark contrast between their usual advocacy for women's rights and the deafening silence surrounding the heinous acts committed against Israeli women.

Jayapal, representing Washington State, defended her stance by asserting that she had previously condemned Hamas' atrocities against women. However, she swiftly shifted the focus to Israel's actions, keeping the essence of her original response intact.

Jayapal asserted, “I don’t think that’s true. I think we always talk about the impact of war on women in particular," and she said that she had specifically "spoken out against Hamas’ crimes.” 

But I think we have to remember that Israel is a democracy. That’s why they’re a strong ally of ours,” Jayapal continued  emphasizing the importance of acknowledging Israel as a strong ally.

Bash persisted in her pursuit of answers, emphasizing the severity of sexual violence as a tool of war employed by Hamas.  Jayapal, in response, acknowledged the horror of rape but underscored the need for balance in addressing the broader context of the conflict. 

She stated, “I answered your question, Dana. I said it’s horrific, and I think that rape is horrific. Sexual assault is horrific. I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas are obviously using these as tools. But I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians. Fifteen thousand Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes, three-quarters of whom are women and children.”


The interview took a heated turn when Bash challenged Jayapal's deflection, emphasizing her initial inquiry about Hamas, stating, “And it’s horrible. But you don’t see Israeli soldiers raping Palestinian women.”

To which Jaypal replied, "I don’t want this to be the hierarchies of oppressions. This is not how we’re going to defeat terrorism."

Criticism of Biden's Handling of the Israel-Hamas War

The Biden administration's handling of the conflict in Gaza has come under scrutiny, with Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, expressing concerns about potential repercussions and stating that it could alienate key communities. 

Chair Jayapal highlights a tangible risk: the alienation of Muslim voters, a crucial component of President Biden's voter coalition. The support for Israel's military campaign has triggered dissatisfaction within this demographic, potentially impacting their support in future elections. Moreover, the cautionary message extends beyond U.S. borders. The warning suggests that mishandling the Gaza conflict could strain relationships with majority-Muslim countries, particularly in the Middle East.

Polling data indicates a rising disapproval within Biden's party, notably among younger voters, women, and nonwhite voters. The handling of the Gaza crisis has become a focal point, and the activism left on social media is amplifying calls for a reevaluation of the administration's stance.


While she reaffirmed her support for Biden, she pointed out the potential repercussions of strained relations in the Middle East on the global reputation of the United States. One notable proposal from Jayapal is the formation of a coalition involving the United States, Israel, and Arab countries to work towards a long-term peace solution. 

Voting Dynamics: Mixed Signals on Israel

Jayapal's voting record has raised eyebrows, particularly her decision to vote "present" on a House resolution supporting Israel after the Hamas attacks in October.

Surprisingly, a few months ago, Representative Pramila Jayapal found herself amidst controversy after labelling Israel as having "discriminatory and outright racist policies." This statement, made during a conference in Chicago, has sparked a heated debate within the Democratic leadership. 

In response to the growing backlash, Jayapal issued a public apology, emphasizing that she does not deem the idea of Israel as a nation to be inherently racist. However, she stood firm in her belief that the policies pursued by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government veer into discriminatory and outright racist territory

This move, coupled with her apology for labelling the Israeli government as "racist," has led to questions about her stance on Israel and the Middle East conflict.

Contradictory Actions During PM Modi's Address

Despite expressing concerns about human rights violations in India under Prime Minister Modi's government, Jayapal surprised many by giving a standing ovation to Modi during his historic address to the US Congress, raising questions about the consistency of her stance on Indian affairs.

Personal Safety Concerns: The Stalking Incident

Beyond the political arena, Jayapal faced a disturbing incident of stalking, resulting in a man's sentencing to 364 days in jail. The incident traces back to a year ago when Seattle police apprehended Forsell outside Jayapal's residence. Armed with a handgun, Forsell was taken into custody on suspicion of committing a hate crime. The severity of the situation was underscored by the need for police intervention and the subsequent legal proceedings that have led to his sentencing.  The incident highlights the challenges and risks public figures, especially women, face in their roles.

From her early days in Chennai to the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill, Pramila Jayapal's political journey has been marked by advocacy for immigrants' rights, women's rights, and progressive causes. However, recent controversies, particularly her response to issues surrounding Hamas, have brought her under scrutiny. 

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