Renuka Chowdhury Laughs Off Sexism, Male Bonhomie in Parliament
A few days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a dig at Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury in the Rajya Sabha, saying her laughter reminded him of television serial "Ramayana", The Quint caught up with her at Panaji, on the sidelines of the "Difficult Dialogues" conference on gender, to talk on matters of equality, women in politics and the challenges that women as parliamentarians face even in the privileged position of a lawmaker.
Speaking about her famous laughter, which was harshly criticised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for breaching parliamentary decorum, the MP said she didn’t do it for publicity.
“I didn’t do it for publicity, I have challenged authority because they were lying through their teeth,” she said adding that it was ironical that the BJP, which had strongly opposed the Aadhaar initially now claims that Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government had “sown the seeds of Aadhaar”. She said that the BJP’s reaction, instead of muffling women, has made them louder. She pointed out that many women spoke out in her support on social media.
“I wasn’t brought up to be a boy or a girl but a citizen of this country and I have lived by those norms and I have paid the price”, Chowdhury told The Quint.
Chowdhury said she was never taught to subscribe to the traditional gender norms. The MP performed her father’s last rites. She also rode a motorcycle to college and drove a tractor when it was needed. As a privileged person in the position of a parliamentarian, she said she has to lead by example and challenge a man when it is necessary.
Commenting on the issue of male bonhomie in the Parliament, Chowdhury said the male parliamentarians who are a part of the process that makes laws for women need education on gender equality the most. She also credited Congress President Rahul Gandhi for his positive stance on the issue of equality.
The irony is that the Parliament that makes the rules for women is where you need to educate them the most. Barring a handful of men who grow up and treat us as equals, for the rest we’re either a part of their perks, we are there for ornamental or entertainment purposes, but they don’t believe that we’re there by right, as colleagues or equals…. and it is a reflection of our society.Renuka Chowdhury, Congress MP
The MP also acknowledged Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s non-participation in the desk thumping in the Parliament, as Chowdhury was berated mockingly by male BJP parliamentarians, ministers, including PM Modi for her laughter.