From “dented, painted” to “boys will be boys”, the latest addition to this series of misogyny by political class is TMC MP Tapas Pal’s appalling remark, where he threatens to kill CPM workers and have his men rape their women. After the video clip was brought to notice by a 24-year-old whistleblower, it has caught attention of the media, a large section of which has condemned his remark. It is yet another case where political speech has become misogynistic banter.
Owing to party pressure, Pal has offered an unconditional apology saying, “Some remarks made by me in the heat and dust of the election campaign have caused dismay and consternation…” Thus, justifying that it was in a fit of euphoria he made the remarks, only to further underline the inherent tendency of gender violence rampant among the political class.
Despite Trinamool Congress being headed by a woman—Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal Chief Minister admitted that his speech was a blunder, only to further attack the media with her, “What should I do? Should I kill him?” What Banerjee can least do is to sack Pal and set a political deterrent to highlight zero tolerance towards misogyny which needs to be observed by political parties in order to put an end to politics of rape culture.
There are three perspectives to be noted here: the insensitivity of the political class, silence maintained by senior party leaders and the mindless support offered by fellows in the political class.
Post December 2013 gangrape, the discourse pertaining to crimes against women has amplified with more number of citizens vehemently criticizing the state machinery and complicity of police in several cases of sexual crimes. Laws have been amended, the media have become more vigilant however, the selectivity employed by political class while addressing crimes against women remains alarming.
While Narendra Modi election campaign focused on “Bahut hua nari par war, abki baar Modi Sarkar”, PM Modi’s government too has not quite fared well when dealing with crimes against women. Despite an additional district court in Jaipur issuing a notice to his cabinet minister Nihalchand in a rape case, where he is one of the accused, the minister has refused to step down rather boasted of his proximity with the top brass.
When Satabdi Roy, Tapas Pal’s close friend and a female MP from Birbhum was asked to react on Pal's comments, she said “We do not support his comment but he is a good human being and he must have spoken in reaction to some provocation...He is an actor and he might have become emotional..”
Similarly, the indolence of the Uttar Pradesh state machinery while dealing with Badaun gangrape and murder case has further unveiled the double standards maintained by our political class. The incident happened only days after when Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had said, “Boys will be boys” with respect to rape of women.
Incidents of delayed justice in cases like the Bhanwari Devi murder and Suryanelli case, where the victim was forced to have sex with forty men, only reflect on the laxity of the state machinery when a male politician’s name spirals in a case. There is victim-blaming, character assassination and threats directed at her to withdraw the case.
When political leaders who also represent citizenry observe such imbecility with respect to a grave concern the country is grappling with, the struggle for gender equity remains unending. When leaders endorse rape, when mum becomes the word of the top brass of political class, when innuendos and insinuating references to rape and other sexual crimes translate into a political speech being addressed to hundreds, no significant change can be expected in the mindsets of people which profess gender discrimination.
Gender disparity should have never existed; there is nothing ‘natural’ about the subjugation of women. These differences are socially constructed and validated by those in power. And till the political class maintains its status quo, no change can be expected towards bridging these constructed gender differences.