‘Political space lacks vocabulary on gender rights’: How papers covered Nitish’s sex remark controversy

Telegraph seemed to have skipped any mention of Modi’s remarks against Nitish Kumar.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s description of coitus interruptus in the assembly – to stress the link between education and reproductive autonomy – has triggered a political controversy and discomfort within some sections. 

The National Commission for Women earlier sought an apology while Prime Minister Narendra Modi used it to hit out at the INDIA alliance during the BJP’s poll campaign, saying that not a single opposition leader has objected to the “insult” to women. Kumar apologised on Wednesday with the BJP terming the remarks as “misogynistic, vulgar, sexist and patriarchal”. 

The controversy made it to the front pages of prominent dailies even as an editorial in the Indian Express noted that Kumar’s remarks are “a disheartening reminder that when it comes to gender rights, the Indian political space, even today, hasn’t evolved the vocabulary for its discourse”. 

“No doubt the CM was making an important point when he drew a link between the education of women and their empowerment through reproductive autonomy as an important step towards population control. But the CM undermined his message by using crudely graphic language that, additionally, suggested an unscientific method of family planning and seemed to place the burden of responsibility on women. This from a leader, who through policies like the 2006 Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojana – and even the controversial 2016 prohibition law that many women welcomed – is arguably one of the first Indian politicians to recognise that empowering women is the right thing to do – and it’s also good politics.”

The front page of the paper carried the news as a single column, headlined “PM slams Nitish over ‘indecent’ remarks: ‘He has no shame, his allies silent’.

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The front page flap of the Hindustan Times had a lead package containing two reports, one about Modi’s remarks and another about the BJP’s challenge of coming up with a political counter to Bihar’s caste survey. The report on PM’s statements was headlined “Modi hits out at Oppn, Nitish comments on campaign trail”.

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The Times of India also featured the incident on its front page, with quotes from Modi and Kumar highlighted in a box. The headline focussed on Nitish’s apology.

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The Telegraph Kolkata edition mentioned Kumar’s apology only on the fifth page, in a report focussing on his remarks in the assembly as well as before the media. The PM’s remarks did not find a mention in the Kolkata edition.

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Hindi papers also had it on the front page. 

Dainik Jagran’s national edition said, “Nitish cornered over controversial remark, Modi says – he has no shame”. A copy in a separate box featured the Bihar CM’s apology.

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The headline on the front page of Hindustan said, “Political controversy over Nitish’s remark”. Both Modi’s remarks as well as the Bihar CM’s apology were highlighted in the strap, small headline within the lead package.

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