Give Peace and Kirron Kher a Chance

Politics

Give Peace and Kirron Kher a Chance

Illustration: Palak Bansal

I

f we had a column for every time a neta said something stupid, we’d have… well, lots of columns… but does Kirron Kher need to be clubbed with the bunch that says chowmein leads to rape?

In the wake of the outrage surrounding the Chandigarh gangrape case, local BJP MP Kirron Kher’s comments turned her into the internet’s punching bag for the day. At a press conference, Kher said that the victim should have been suspicious of an auto in which three strange men were already seated, and that in general, girls should avoid boarding an auto in these circumstances. Really, Ms Kher, this is what happens when you love the microphone so much — you turn into Mamata Banerjee.  

These words, intended as a piece of advice, were broken into newsbyte-sized chunks that propelled Kher to the top of the trending list, where she was instantly declared a victim-blamer. It’s difficult not to, especially since politicians in this country don’t exactly have a reputation of being fierce feminists.

Yet, something about Kher’s statement doesn’t feel quite right. Kher isn’t known for being regressive in her views on women, although this kind of competitive arseholery is to be expected. But her statement on the gangrape also included a reflection on how the men are still culpable for the blame, when she said “…people should educate their boys. Even in the family, when the father doesn’t respect the mother – that has an impact on the kids.”

Regardless of your political affiliations, Kher was an unfair target

Clearly, a cleverly put-together news headline that shows a politician in a negative light is all some people need to start sharpening their stakes. Yes, India is a shitty country for women, and every time something like the Chandigarh gangrape happens, it’s natural to be flooded with rage. Still, regardless of your political affiliations, Kher was an unfair target.

We aren’t dealing with Mulayam Singh Yadav or Abu Azmi here. Kirron Kher is a bold woman in her own right, even though that’s rarely a guarantee against misogyny. She’s been divorced and remarried, holds a parliament seat in the heart of patriarchal North India, and has campaigned against female foeticide in the past. Just earlier this year, she spoke out in support of Varnika Kundu when Kundu faced victim-blaming of her own in a stalking case that involved the BJP Haryana chief Subhash Barala’s son, Vikas Barala, chasing her vehicle down the street in his car. Reacting to those who were questioning why Varnika was driving alone at night, Kher said “Why should girls not step out at night? Girls are safe during the day, and unsafe at night? The problem then is with the men.” Even then, she blamed the men, and praised Kundu’s presence of mind in immediately alerting the police.

If her past actions are any indication, Kirron Kher seems to care about the safety of women in her constituency, and when her statements are looked at in their entirety, they come off as protective rather than judgmental. Too often in our country, issues that have no place in politics are turned political. It’s happening with Rahul Gandhi’s religion, and by turning on Kirron Kher, we’re putting political prejudice over the safety of women. There are very real, very grim hurdles to overcome if we want India’s women to feel safe in their own country. Kirron Kher isn’t one of them.

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