This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shambhavi Saxena. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why PM Modi’s Sexist Jibe At Renuka Chowdhary Is No Laughing Matter

More from Shambhavi Saxena

Taking a dig at fellow parliamentarian Renuka Chowdhary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sparked outrage following his comments in the Rajya Sabha on February 8.

Congress member Chowdhary laughed loudly in derision as Modi announced that Aadhar was conceptualized during L. K. Advani’s tenure as Deputy Prime Minister. She was first told off by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, who told her to “go to a doctor”. And then, she was silenced by Modi himself. NDTV quotes him as saying, “Ramayana serial ke baad aisi hansi sunne ka saubhagya aaj jaake mila hai (After Ramayana serial, we’ve now had the privilege of listening to this kind of laughter).” At this, BJP leaders in the assembly roared with laughter.

On the other hand, BJP minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted his praise for how the Prime Minister handled the situation by not losing his cool. But the women’s wing of Chowdhary’s party has rushed to condemn these mocking and sexist words. And let’s not forget, Modi has made controversial comments about women in the past.

In June 2015, he undermined Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, by saying her efforts to fight terrorism were admirable, “despite being a woman”. It was more insult than compliment, and garnered massive backlash on Twitter. In November 2015, Modi did it when promoting India’s gold schemes. He proudly declared: “Women usually don’t own anything […] but gold is their strength.” Rather than address the problem of the unequal distribution of resources, he ended up glorifying the fact that the only wealth most Indian women possess is the gold they inherit upon marriage.

Our MPs are no strangers to sexist remarks like these. Remember when UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath saidIf men acquire women-like qualities, they become gods but when women acquire men like qualities, they become (‘rakshasa’) demon like”? In the wake of the 2012 gang rape of medical student Jyoti Singh, MPs debating the anti-rape bill put the onus on a woman’s dress (among other things).

Vice President Naidu’s reaction in the Chowdhury incident also deserves scrutiny. He resorted to the classic strategy of implying Chowdhary was suffering from a mental illness. Women have been labelled “crazy” all throughout history, just to shut them up. There is a subtle hypocrisy in the reaction. Worse incidents have taken place in government assemblies. In 2014, Congress member Lagadapati Rajagopal pepper-sprayed supporters of the Telangana Bill, sending three to the hospital. Members of Kerala’s Left Democratic Front party have thrown chairs, breaking speakers, computers and lights in the state assembly. In fact, on the same day that Chowdhary was reprimanded in the Rajya Sabha, opposition members in Uttar Pradesh launched a juvenile attack with paper balls, paper planes, and balloons. All of these offenders were men. But were they requested to go see doctors? We all know the answer to that.

Does the accusation of sexism hold water? Chowdhury neither destroyed government property, not did she make an uncalled-for personal remark. One has to wonder why a woman’s laughter merits a sterner response than rampaging men.

You must be to comment.
  1. n

    Renuka Chowdhury, has always been an ‘over the top’ woman politician and I believe she was shown her place, in parliament. Also, she just did not laugh. It was prolonged derisive laughter, while the prime minister was speaking. She had room to debate, which she ignored and chose to indulge in gimmickry.

    The following controversies have been listed against her: ( Wikipedia )

    Chowdhury said in 2011 that pant-suits are ridiculous, that men look good in dhotis and that, being a Health Minister, she could vouch that dhotis increase fertility.

    In 2015, Chowdhury was booked by Hyderabad police under the ST/SC Atrocities Act for allegedly taking bribe of over Rs 1.10 crore from an aspirant by promising him an Assembly Election ticket.

    In early 2000, a close aide of the tax evader Hasan Ali Khan said that he gave Khan a diamond worth 1.2 crore Rupees, which was to be gifted to Chowdhury

    Chowdhury was instrumental in getting the Domestic Violence Act passed into law during her tenure as Minister of Women and Child Development without any debate or discussion on its relevance or merits.[10] Her elder daughter was going through a divorce while she was the Minister of the concerned department and had filed a dowry case against her daughter’s in-laws.

    On being asked by Karan Thapar in an interview if she thought that men should first suffer before she considers amendments to check misuse of the law Chowdhury replied, “It is not such a bad idea, except that I have such pity for men.” At one instance she even said “It is men’s turn to suffer”. In another instance, she publicly urged women to trust condoms and not their husbands.

More from Shambhavi Saxena

Similar Posts

By Sas3 Tranimal

By Mythili Kamath

By Harshit Agrawal

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        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.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        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.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’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.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below