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'These things' should not happen, dear minister

Moments after repeat offender Abu Asim Azmi put his foot in his mouth in a fashion he deems quite effective, Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi was in an informal gathering with a bunch of scribes, mostly women. Unsurprisingly, the demand for a comment was raised. “What will happen if I comment? It’s not like I can change anything,” she said, with a note of resignation.

Gandhi’s despair is not a lone one, and neither is it displaced. In an environment where day after day, cutting across parties or regions, male politicians let loose their unwarranted opinions, influenced by a carefully-guarded social conditioning mired in deep set patriarchy, it is not a surprise that everything from short skirts to mobile phones to chowmein suffer the blame for any instance of violence against women. Anything or anyone, except for the men who clearly have no respect for the zippers that hold their own. While Azmi says that the Bangalore mass molestation took place on New Year’s Eve since “nudity” is a fashion for women, Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara dismissed the lapse of his own state’s administration by saying that “these things happen”.

In the hallowed hall of fame for intrepid misogynists, Parmeshwara and Azmi have for company luminaries like Union Minister VK Singh (who was inventive enough to create a portmanteau fusing press and prostitute), SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav (who does not want rape charges to come in the way of the lives of illustrious youth) and BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj (who wants women to help shoulder the burden of carrying on the Hindu lineage).

Also TMC MP Tapas Paul (who thinks nothing of being caught on camera handing out rape threats). The list, needless to say, does not end here.

It is no surprise that as per the NCRB, the number of nationwide cases of assault on women with an intent to outrage her modesty in 2015 saw a 12.9 per cent jump from 2014, and cases of use of criminal force to women with an intent to disrobe went up by 2.3 per cent.

Perhaps, it is only penal action that will act as a deterrent. When Paul was caught on camera on June 14 last year, a delegation of women’s activists met Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to demand action against him. How could the Parliament tolerate someone like Paul, they asked. As a consequence, Paul was pulled up by both the Speaker and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, and he was barred from the Parliament for a few days.

But without a unified code of conduct for our law makers, the delegation’s demands could not cut across ranks.

Yet, as politicians in power remind us ever so often, there is a need indeed.

Abu Azmi on b’luru molestation

“It was bound to happen. Women call nudity fashion.

They were wearing short dresses…It won’t be right for my sister or daughter to go out at night without male members of the family.

“Our women must think about their own security themselves… But when few women in half dress come out on streets at late night with their friends, such incidents do occur.”