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Somnath Bharti case: time for a refresher course on other misogynistic politicians?

Suhas Munshi | Updated on: 14 June 2015, 19:08 IST

Speaking to a television reporter on Wednesday, right after filing a complaint against her husband - senior AAP leader Somnath Bharti - Lipika Mitra said that all she wanted was to live a life of dignity.

Mitra has accused her husband of domestic violence and mental torture, fraud and demands of dowry.

The allegations are highly disturbing. However, arguments on both sides will be heard and Bharti will stand trial, during which time it would be unethical to pronounce judgment.

The accusation against former law min Somnath Bharti is not surprising; misogyny runs across the political sphere

But as the case progresses, it won't be wrong to recall how sexist and misogynistic our law makers can be.

It's difficult to dissociate politicians from such charges when many of them publicly defend those who have been convicted of rape or, reduce women's role in society to just producing children.

Women as baby producers

A BJP leader from West Bengal, Shyamal Goswami, was clear, that he expects no less than five children from every Hindu woman. Similarly, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj had pegged the number at four, while Shankaracharya Vasudevanand wouldn't settle for anything less than 10 children per woman.

It seems too much to expect men in command to be cautious while dealing with issues of sexual assault or abusive domination.

Chauvinistic reactions to rape, sexual assault

Three years ago, a High Court judge in Karnataka said it was alright for a husband to beat up his wife as long he was taking good care of her.

In 2012 itself, former Haryana Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala proposed early marriage as a solution to curb rape of women in his state.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat discovered urbanisation to be behind increasing number of rapes. "Rapes don't happen in Bharat," he said, "they happen in India."

Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief of Samajwadi Party, actually found Mumbai's Shakti Mills gang rape, a fit subject for humour. "Boys will be boys," he said referring to the rapists.

Shankaracharya Vasudevan beats party colleagues at own game. He wants 10 children from every Hindu woman

Andhra Pradesh Congress chief, Botsa Satyanarayana, speaking right after the infamous 2012 gang rape and murder said: "Just because India achieved freedom at midnight, it does not mean that women can venture out after dark."

That was the time when even spiritual gurus couldn't help themselves offering advice to women.

Talking about Nirbhaya, who was fighting for her life and succumbed to her injuries soon after, Asaram Bapu, now in jail on charges of rape himself, said she was at fault for not addressing her rapists as brothers. "It takes two hands to clap," he had said.

Scorn against the female voice

Sexism against women who dare to speak in public is irrepressible. Cutting through Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan's speech on 2012 Assam riots, senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde said she needn't bother herself as this was not 'a filmy subject'.

Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam didn't think BJP MP, Smriti Irani was fit to talk politics when he said, "Aap toh TV pe thumke lagati thi, aaj chunavi vishleshak ban gayi (you used to dance on TV, and now you have become a psephologist).''

The phrase 'dented-painted' achieved notoriety as soon as Congress MP and the president's son, Abhijit Mukherjee, uttered it. He was referring to women protesting against the Nirbhaya gang rape.

In deeper mud now

Coming back to Bharti, very serious allegations have been levelled against him in both cases.

He was himself accused of molesting foreign nationals, and of betraying sexist and racial prejudice during his tenure as law minister in AAP's 49-day government. The case is on currently in a Delhi court.

The Ugandan women, whom he had accused of drug abuse and prostitution, in a midnight raid, were not found involved in either of the two crimes. The women, in turn, accused Bharti of molestation and of forcing them to urinate in public, for samples Bharti said, contained drug traces.

Ironically, he is defending another AAP leader, Kumar Vishwas, in the Delhi High Court over his 'illicit relationship' case.

The jury may still be out on Bharti's culpability in the new case. But it's a good occasion to remind ourselves how easily misogynistic and abusive our leaders can be.

For those in power, it would help to be on a fiercer and more constant vigil. Beginning with themselves, and then the others.

First published: 14 June 2015, 19:09 IST
Suhas Munshi @suhasmunshi

He hasn't been to journalism school, as evident by his refusal to end articles with 'ENDS' or 'EOM'. Principal correspondent at Catch, Suhas studied engineering and wrote code for a living before moving to writing mystery-shrouded-pall-of-gloom crime stories. On being accepted as an intern at Livemint in 2010, he etched PRESS onto his scooter. Some more bylines followed in Hindustan Times, Times of India and Mail Today.