Mulayam, Abu no exception to rule
The pervasive ‘rape culture’ and the industry that is ‘rape comments’ have been amply boosted by the latest ammunition added to the arsenal of political bickering by the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Abu Azmi of Samajwadi Party. Barely a day after Yadav shocked, if not amused, with his ‘boys are boys, they make mistakes’ quip, Azmi went up by several notches when he declared that women having sex outside marriage, including rape victims, should be hanged. Confounding all measures of liberal and logical reasoning, the SP leaders have put forward notions that the educated sections of the electorate shun as examples of outdated and medieval ideas, present only in remote rural hinterlands, far away from centres of political and institutional power. But the same cannot be said of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh and seat of power of one of the biggest Indian states, which sends 80 union ministers to Lok Sabha. Time and again, our political leaders have not only shamed and exasperated us with their barbaric attitude towards women and gender equality, they have also publicly admitted to extremely shameful and coercive practices by themselves either in covert or overt manner. At a time when rape laws are being spruced up to deal with the immitigable atrocities committed on women and sexual minorities, our elected representatives display rabidly misinformed and prejudiced approaches to sex, sexuality and gender, not only biased to the core, but downright violent and predatory in nature.
However, what Mulayam Singh Yadav and Abu Azmi betray is also a sign of residual misogyny that trickles down from even the educated and liberal sections of our society. For many, rape is an ‘industry’ for ‘inconspicuous women’ to steal limelight or extort money from powerful men. For many, rape is a gendered instrument used not by men to repress women but vice-versa. It is extremely distressing to see the multitude of reactionary statements coming in from the so-called pillars of our society, the political figureheads, who adhere to the worst forms of bigotry and chauvinism directed at women, religious and sexual minorities as well as the liberal intelligentsia. Fanning rampant fears and preconceptions of the other, these leaders ritually resort to stoking the basest of instincts in order to mint political points or petty electoral benefits. Not only should such leaders be voted out, but they should be immediately barred from continuing in their official or governmental positions. However, what must also be taken into account is the fact that the political figures committing such blunders are also the ones who rely on the poisonous politics of divisiveness to remain in power. We can’t expect ‘gender sensitivity’ from repeat offenders of communal crimes, naturally.