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7 Embarrassing Speech Gaffes Made By Politicians Who Would’ve Wished That We Forget Those Quotes Soon

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By Priyanjana Pramanik:

“Politics is almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times.” Winston Churchill said that, and he is widely considered to have been right. In fact, this is the very reason I have a great deal of respect for politicians. No matter what else I may say about them, they definitely step up to the plate. They put themselves out there. For whatever reason that might be. But sometimes, politicians are quoted for entirely the wrong reasons, when they say something we will remember for a long time, and they’ll really wish we didn’t.

bush

There was the time Barack Obama thought his country had 58 states, or the time Senator John McCain referred to Vladimir Putin as the President of Germany. But these are some of my personal favourites; the gaffes that might just stay with me for all time to come.

  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former President of Iran, has had his fair share of controversy. For example, he issues a number of public statements in which he claimed that The Holocaust as we know it is ‘a myth’ and ‘a lie’. However, he is possibly best known for something that he said on September 24, 2007, at Columbia University.

“…in Iran we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who told you that we have it.”

  • Mitt Romney was the 70th Governor of the state of Massachusetts, serving from 2003 to 2007. He was also the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 election, which he lost to incumbent President Barack Obama. Much has been made of a certain incident involving Romney, which took place during a 1983 family vacation. Romney drove twelve hours with his dog Seamus strapped to the roof of his car. The President of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) publicly criticized Romney for his actions. Romney’s reply?

“PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air.”

Indeed.

  • Charles de Gaulle was the 18th President of the French Republic, as well as the co-prince of Andorra. Two weeks before what would have been his 80th birthday, he collapsed suddenly, dying some time later from a ruptured blood vessel. The memorial service and funeral were held on November 12, 1970. Among the distinguished statesmen who came to pay their respects were U.S. President Richard Nixon, British Prime Minister Edward Heath, and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. And on this day, Nixon said something no one would ever let him forget.

“This is a great day for France!”

  • For a very long time, Rick Santorum has spoken out against gay marriage, and has said a great many things on the topic. Clearly, he feels very strongly about it. Among his many detractors are writer Dan Savage, who waged a very public online campaign to make the first Google search result for “Santorum” something that I really can’t tell you here (Google it and see). But that’s not the point. Speaking to The New York Times Magazine in May 2005, Santorum said something that caught my attention.

“[Gay marriage] threatens my marriage. It threatens all marriages. It threatens the traditional values of this country.”

One wonders what threat gay marriage could and would pose to Santorum’s own.

  • Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, has said quite a few quotable things about rape. An article from CNN-IBN on October 15, 2012, wrote that Banerjee blamed the occurrence of rape on the fact that men and women now interact more freely than before.

“Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options.”

She went on to say that a section of the media was glorifying rape. “Everyday rape incidents are being highlighted as if the entire state has become a land of the rapists. Rape is sought to be glorified by these people. This will not be tolerated by people. I would like to say that negative journalism only destroys and it is time to champion positive journalism.”

I would like to say that I agree with Mamata Banerjee on the importance of positive journalism. Just that.

  • There is one particular quote that makes me smile every time I read it or hear it. Though, obviously this is clearly no laughing matter. In October 2012, Haryana Khap leader Jitender Chhataar asked youngsters to refrain from eating junk food like chowmein. Apparently, men experience hormonal imbalances when they eat such food, and are more likely to commit rape.

“Poverty and intoxication are the main reasons for rape as well as young people sitting together the wrong way. But also eating chowmein causes a hormonal imbalance which is a big reason for rapes.”

Definitely keeping that one in mind.

  • No list of political gaffes is complete without at least one Bushism. I’m pretty sure this one’s a winner.

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.(August 5, 2004)

Enough said.

You must be to comment.
  1. Raj

    I believe they have the right to express their views just as you have the right to express your views on their views. And yes our media glorifies and sensationalizes rapes far more than the media of other countries where the rape victim is afforded privacy and respect from the media.

  2. Meghna

    Given the way India works, if rape cases weren’t repeatedly followed up by the media (and authorities feel the heat), even the existing negligible conviction rate of the criminals wouldn’t happen.
    Bushims win hands down, in my opinion 😀

    1. Raj

      Negligible conviction rate for rape cases? Compared to? What do you think is the conviction rate for developed countries? Could you do a basic literature survey and tell how India fares ?

      And in any case, is trial by media really necessary? Is it any substitute for our law and order system?

  3. Gitanjali

    Nice Read!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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