Modi complimented Sheikh Hasina during a two-day visit to Bangladesh at the weekend, saying in Hindi it was “heartening that the prime minister of Bangladesh, despite being a woman, is openly saying that she has zero tolerance for terrorism”.
The comment sparked a flurry of sarcastic comments, jokes and pictures of successful Indian women on social media. The #DespiteBeingAWoman Twitter hashtag was India’s top trending topic on Monday.
#DespiteBeingAWoman PM’s statement reflects a mindset that is parochial, condescending towards women with typical gender stereotypes.
— Sharmistha Mukherjee (@Sharmistha_GK) June 8, 2015
“Managed to wake up & eat breakfast #DespiteBeingAWoman,” posted Twitter user Swati Chaturvedi.
— Esha Pandey, IPS (@PandeyEsha) June 8, 2015
#DespiteBeingAWoman I am going out of town to report today. God, give me strength
— sunetra choudhury (@sunetrac) June 8, 2015
While scores poked fun at the Indian premier’s gaffe, others expressed anger, questioning whether Modi meant women were generally tolerant of terrorism.
How can you even say or think #despitebeingawoman when your own country had a great female PM way before most first world countries! Shame!
— Amena (@Fashionopolis) June 8, 2015
I am tweeting about politics #DespiteBeingAWoman
— Kanika Kumar aka KK (@nskathy) June 8, 2015
Indian politicians, including some from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, have come under fire in the past for sexist language.
But since storming to power in May last year, Modi has sought to position himself as a champion of women’s rights, emphasising the importance of toilets for poor and vulnerable women, education for girls and the ending of female foeticide in India.
In his first Independence Day speech last August, he addressed the issue of rising sexual assaults on women and called on parents to raise their sons better. -AFP