Prominent leaders Kailash Vijayvargiya and Sadhvi Prachi make statements that are derogatory and perceived as anti-women

While Vijayvargiya states that women dress “vulgarly” and look like “Surpanakha”, Sadhvi Prachi says that Muslim women are helpless as they have to wear black veils in 50 degree heat

Vijay Vargiya

In a patriarchal society, men typically establish a system of social standards and exert authority over women in various aspects of society. One of the embedded patriarchal standards is the supposed dress code that women should follow, one which depicts the country as progressive, but not too westernised. Clothes represent culture, a culture whose alleged protector is the state. Women, and other genders, have always received contradictory messages about their bodies, with specific rules being laid down on how women should dress and have a distinct gender identity. It is sometimes glorified by ideal images of goddesses; sometimes it is expected to hold the honor of the /family/community/nation; and then the same body is projected as shameful, embarrassing, fearful, and disgusting. This is how religion, the state, and the self-appointed protectors of the state limit women’s autonomy. On one hand, The veil of a Muslim woman is seen as emphasising the differences and divisions between “Western” and “Muslim” values, and it is often a contentious symbol that represents a sign of backwardness in the Western so-called “liberal” and “progressive” countries, and on the other hand, these same individuals do not appreciate when women show too much skin, or become too “westernised.” These standards of how women should dress are pushed down women’s throats by a slew of laws, many of which are drafted by men who serve as the guardians of patriarchal societies. Anyone who dares to defy these laws and assert their autonomy is punished, with penalties ranging from rape to murder, to serve as a lesson to others.

India is another country where society has established standards for women’s clothing. Despite the fact that many battles have been waged and valiantly fought against gender inequality and the rigidly imposed structures of gender binaries, anti-women statements made by prominent leaders every other week are all we need to see how our society thrives on gendered notions. One of the most visible manifestations of this is gendered clothing.

On April 5, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya made anti-women remarks, where he said that “Badly dressed” girls resemble “Surpanakha”, a fictional character, a demon, from the Epic Ramayan, Vijayvargiya was speaking at a religious function in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore on the occasion of Hanuman and Mahavir Jayanti, and his video of the remark has gone viral.

Women wear such bad and vulgar clothes… we think of women as goddesses… but we can’t see any of that in these women. They look like Surpanakha. Wear nice clothes because God has given you a beautiful body. Teach your children about our culture,” Vijayvargiya said.

Continuing with his derogatory statement, Vijayvargiya then said, “When I leave for home at night, I see educated young people and children under the influence of drugs….I feel like getting down (from the car) and slapping them five to seven times to sober them up. When I go out at night and see young woman under the influence of drugs, I feel like giving them five-seven slaps to sober them up. I swear to God.”

The senior BJP leader’s remarks drew a strong reaction from the opposition, and social media users, who condemned Vijayvargiya’s remarks. While the issue of control over women’s autonomy goes deeper than politics, leaders of the opposition attacked the BJP government for the aforementioned words said by one of his leaders.

Congress leader Shama Mohammed chastised Union minister Smriti Irani for remaining silent on the remarks. “What happened to Smriti Irani? Does she agree with this heinous remark? Or does she only use her voice to attack Rahul Gandhi?” she wondered as she shared the video.

“BJP leaders continue to humiliate women,” said Congress spokesperson Sangeeta Sharma, who said that these comments reflects their thinking and attitude. She further said that “In independent India, BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya ji is justified in referring to women as Shurpankha and making disparaging remarks about their attire. BJP, please apologise!”

The video can be viewed here:

In another news, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Sadhvi Prachi on Thursday asked Muslim girls to marry Hindu boys, claiming that they would be able to lead a happy life, free from wearing black clothes or from talaq (divorce) and halala. Ms. Prachi, who reached the circuit house in Bareilly, began her anti-women and islamophobic diatribe by calling Muslim women “Bechari (Helpless)” for having to wear black burkhas in 50 degree temperature.

Ignoring the autonomy of women, right to dress and right of expression, Sadhvi Prachi then sexualises Muslim women and calling on them to marry Hindu men. She said that the same act would benefit Muslim women as then they will not have to wear burkhas, commit halala, or marry in their relation. Ms. Prachi, who had once announced a reward of ₹50 lakh to anyone willing to behead Zakir Naik, an Islamic public orator, also asked Muslim women who faced triple talaq to join Hinduism.

“If women marry in Islam, they will definitely undergo a divorce. This will be followed by the ‘horrible halala’, so kick the culture which ruins lives and adopt Hinduism,” she said.

The video can be viewed here:


In one report, a prominent BJP leader criticises women for wearing “vulgar” clothing and compares them to demons, whereas another far-right leader, a woman herself, makes derogatory statements against women who must wear a veil, projecting them as victims. The BJP’s interpretation of Hindu nationalism is based on appeasing the religious majority at the expense of the minority, which includes women. The BJP and its extremist group have been feeding on culture; they derive their support from traditional patriarchal families and appeal to them by mirroring and incorporating their beliefs into the party’s ideology. They form a common public opinion of what is right and wrong and determine the country’s course. The sexualisation and policing of women’s clothing is not new in India, but it is becoming increasingly important that we protect an individual woman’s autonomy and challenge the objectification of women as holders of honour for the state, nation, and community.



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