By Sharanya Gopinathan
Remember the time Union Minister Ramdas Athawale attended a workshop on “sensitising transgenders” and took the opportunity to tell the gathering, with no hint of irony, that they should dress like men because they are neither men or women?
Looks like Karnataka Home Minister R Ramalinga Reddy is trying to outdo that massive faux pas (to put it kindly). Yesterday, during a session on ‘women’s safety’ in the state legislative council, Reddy (pictured above, no you haven’t met him before, he just has that kind of face) actually told the council that women have “no business” to walk on the streets of Bangalore late at night.
It’s obviously a shocking statement coming from the Home Minister of Karnataka – the state responsible for providing 38% of India’s total IT exports. But this isn’t the first time we’ve heard something of the sort from Karnataka.
The Karnataka government, for some reason, has been confused about the idea of women being out at night for years now. In December 2016, Karnataka finally removed restrictions on working women in all sectors by amending the Shops and Commercial Establishments Act of 1961 and the Factories Act of 1948. But in March 2017, Karnataka MLA NA Haris suggested that IT and BT firms avoid assigning night shifts to women in the interest of their “safety and privacy needs”. So, ministers feel that the state’s own mechanisms to ensure law, order and safety are inadequate to meet the needs of women, and that’s why women should pay the price and stay home at night or work afternoon shifts? Of course, the night belongs to women as it does to anybody else.
As women who actually do work night shifts throughout the city, like flower sellers, garment workers and nurses, have said to The Ladies Finger, the feeling is that the night belongs as much to women as anybody, and women workers in Bangalore have found interesting and creative ways to negotiate the city at night.
This statement from the Home Minister becomes doubly ironic when seen in contrast with other “business” women have been taking care of this month. Just yesterday, the Indian Navy got its first woman pilot, Shubhangi Swaroop, and three others became the country’s first women Naval officers. Also, it hasn’t even been a full month since Karnataka got its first woman IG and DG (as a ‘Rajyotsava gift’, the Times of India says), and here poor Mr. Reddy is still wondering what business women have outside at night.
Hilariously, Times NOW reports that when questioned, Reddy did not deny having made the statement, but said “come to my office” to seek a reply. Okay, see you.
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