Women MLAs take exception to Speaker’s 'rape' remarks

Women MLAs take exception to Speaker’s 'rape' remarks

Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar, during a discussion on audiogate, at the Legislative Assembly in Bengaluru on Tuesday. DH Photo

Taking exception to Legislative Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar’s remarks, likening himself to a “rape victim” on the floor of the House on Tuesday, women lawmakers said that they would meet and seek an explanation on his comments. 

The Speaker’s remarks have not only kicked up a storm on social media, but women’s organisations across the state have also condemned him for his remarks which have been termed “highly objectionable” and “insensitive” remarks, and demanded his immediate apology. 

When DH spoke to five among the 10 women legislators in the House on Wednesday, they were unanimous in their opinion that the Speaker’s remarks were unwarranted.
While the BJP MLAs Roopali Naik (Karwar) and Shashikala Jolle (Nippani), said that the remarks were in “bad taste”, the Congress members, Laxmi Hebbalkar (Belgaum Rural) and Soumya Reddy (Jayanagar) however defended Kumar.

“He shouldn’t have made such comments. It was highly insensitive. In fact, we wanted to raise an objection to the same yesterday itself. But we couldn’t. We are planning to meet the Speaker and seek his explanation,” said Jolle.

Seconding her, Naik said, “The Speaker has joked about a rape survivor’s plight. He has spoken dismissively. He shouldn't have done it,” she added.

Insensitive, but not intentional

Nominated member Vinisha Nero, who too termed Kumar’s remarks as insensitive, however, said that the Speaker had “unintentionally” made the “mistake”. 

“I wasn’t in the House when the remarks were made. I saw it on television only late in the night. It shouldn’t have happened. The Speaker wanted to draw a parallel to his pain. But the pain a rape survivor goes through cannot be compared to anything else. The rape survivor is scarred for life. But knowing our Speaker, I think has the utmost respect for women. He has never disrespected us. In that moment, he has made that mistake, which he shouldn’t have made. I don’t think he meant anything disrespectful to women. It might have been a human moment, which he let that happen,” she added.

Choosing her words carefully, Hebbalkar said that Kumar had the highest regard for women. “It shouldn’t have happened. I was in the House. But I don’t think his intention was to hurt anybody’s sentiments or disrespect anybody. He merely expressed the pain he is going through. I guess, he made those remarks unintentionally. He is somebody who has always encouraged women. The entire state knows what kind of a person he is. But as a woman, I feel that this should not have happened,” she said.

First time MLA Soumya Reddy too echoed Hebbalkar’s sentiments. “I wasn’t in the House yesterday. But I agree that he should not have used those words. But knowing our Speaker, not just as a lawmaker, but also as a person, there is no way that he has said it intentionally or to hurt anybody, especially women. Also, rape just doesn’t happen only to women. I know men who have been raped as well. As an activist, I have seen people of the LGBT community, and children too being subjected to rape. The Speaker drew a parallel, with no intention of hurting anybody,” she said.

The trio, however, said that they would meet the Speaker along with the other women members and “discuss” the matter with him.

The All India Democratic Women’s Association has demanded the Speaker to tender an apology. 

“The Speaker has spoken dismissively about rape. It’s unfortunate that the members of the House cheered him on without raising objections to his gender insensitive remarks. It makes us wonder if such lawmakers will even be able to empathise with a rape survivor. The All India Democratic Women’s Association strongly condemns his remarks. The Speaker and all the MLAs should immediately apologise and ensure that such a thing is not repeated in future,” said Gowramma, general secretary of the Association in a statement.

During the discussion on the audiogate scandal surrounding him, Kumar had compared his situation to that of a rape survivor. He had said that the repeated references to the "Rs 50 crore" bribery charge against him, had made him feel like he was being “raped multiple times”. 

Interestingly, none of the members of the House objected the Speaker's remarks. They instead cheered him on by bursting into laughter. 

Speaker trolled online
Twitterati too has not taken kindly to Kumar’s remarks. Following are some of the views expressed.

Politics in Karnataka has become such a joke and it is really disgusting. Shame on the speaker Ramesh Kumar for making such a crass statement in the assembly and shame on all those MLAs who shamelessly laughed after the remark made by the speaker.  
- Aditya Kulkarni
‏ @adikulk 3h3 hours ago

Language  used by the speaker inside the house in Karnataka is highly objectionable I don't agree with his views 
Dr k n shivakumar‏ @shivakumar_dr 

Shameful that the Speaker Of The Karnataka Assembly uses his chair to air a metaphor likening Himself To a Rape survivor, joking & ridiculing the plight of a victim while the elected representatives are seen Laughing & Guffawing. 
itender singh‏ @jitender19565 

Speaker of Karnataka Assembly, also a onetime TV soap opera actor, declares 'I feel like one who has been raped'! Such insensitive remarks on women are freely aired by very experienced politicians! 
E.R. Ramachandran‏ @ERRamachandran