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Renuka Chowdhury is a woman to admire

July 20, 2007

I admire Renuka Chowdhury (the Minister for Women and Child Development) mainly because she has a lot of enthusiasm for her job. This is rare amongst our politicians. And I also admire her outspokenness and her sincere desire to change things…Right from the time she took over as minister of state for women and child development, she seemed determined to make a difference in the lives of Indian women. She talked of formulating new laws, not just to improve the status of women, but also to improve their employment prospects. She also talked “about bridging the gap between urban and rural women in terms of overall development.”

Certainly she had a formidable goal in mind. Yet, for her these were not just goals. She has actually done things. In a conservative society like ours she has spoken out in favour of sex education. She has also said that those who are against sex education are hypocrites…I couldn’t agree more. In fact I would go one step further and say that many of those who oppose sex education have a wrong idea about sex…

Even when she released the report on child abuse in April, she spoke out strongly for the need for sex education and talked about the new law her ministry was formulating to curb child abuse.

Going back a little into the past, Ms Chowdhury also took a personal interest in the Nithari serial killings and strongly criticised the role of the police.

She has also been instrumental in formulating the bill aimed at preventing exploitation of children – a bill which will help curb juvenile delinquency and help the setting up state-level Child Protection Units. She is also making efforts to “induct more women in the police forces to implement laws relating to women and children.”
Another one of her recent statements (just yesterday in fact) concerned the punishment that should be meted out to child abusers:

The ministry for women and child development (WCD) has proposed death penalty for offenders who force children into acting as couriers for drugs and narcotics, begging and human trafficking…

Some might see her suggestion as extreme, but the fact is that perhaps this is the only way to throw the fear of God into these criminals. Half of India’s kids are abused in some way and some drastic measures need to be taken. Her suggestion can perhaps be implemented in extreme cases…for those who traffic hundreds of children – year after year.

Her ministry is also working on a legislation called the Offences Against Child Bill that will bring into it’s ambit sex tourism – where children are pulled into the child sex industry. This bill will also curb of children for sexual purposes, violence against children, emotional abuse, unlawful sexual contact, exploiting children for purposes like begging, pornography etc.

I know Ms Chowdhury has been involved in personal controversies, but as far as I know she has not been involved in any corruption case. That is very important to me…this lady is not corrupt and she is a doer…at the worst she has been accused of being outspoken, aggressive, and high-handed. She has also been accused of being a man-hater, but really I don’t think she is.

Her latest statement has got her embroiled in a controversy as she has apparently labeled Indian men as “untrustworthy” when it comes to protective sex. She advised women to carry condoms themselves as men “could not be trusted.” Well, I heard her speak on television and to me at least it did not seem as if she were talking about all Indian men. She never said ALL Indian men…I can’t explain it actually, but anyone who heard her speak would realise that she did not mean to label all Indian men. For one thing she was talking to group of HIV positive women (at the meeting of the National Women Forum of Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS) who were infected by their husbands…she probably meant men like those…

What our media and the people need to see is that Renuka Chowdhury is the best thing thats happened to Indian women and children. She is doing something to help control HIV/AIDS in India, particularly amongst women and innocents (children). She recently launched a national forum for HIV positive women. I may not agree with all of her methods (Her latest idea is to monitor pregnancies to stop abortion of the female foetus which I think is an unworkable idea). But I cannot deny that the woman is on the move. And the reason I am writing this is because I feel that she is being dragged into controversies unnecessarily. It takes away focus from her achievements.

No one can forget that she has pushed through the amendment to the old Sati law (Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987). Under this new amendment, “the entire community will be held accountable for any incidence of sati.” I think this is absolutely fantastic…catch and jail those evil people who want to get rid of their daughter-in-laws after their sons die.

The problem is that when an individual starts doing things, people start to take notice…there is no shortage of people who want to pull that individual down. What I see is that the woman is intense and as a result she has made some strong statements which have been easy to misinterpret. Our media simply loves sensational stuff, and unfortunately gullible people actually fall for it.

The bottomline is: India needs Renuka Chowdhury. It is ministers like her who can improve the lot of women in our country.

Look, this is what the world says about us, about our practice of Sati, our practice of female foeticide, our practice of burning brides for dowry…

We need to support and encourage people like Renuka Chowdhury who are fighting for the rights of women.

(Photo credits: The Telegraph India)

More Reading on Women Issues in India
Children’s Issues

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2007 11:35 am

    hey why don’t u fill this information on the wikipedia…

  2. July 20, 2007 3:18 pm

    I was thinking of filling it on the Wiki. Been too lazy so far. Will do so in the next couple of days. Actually I have given the link of the Wiki..its on her name. But you are right, I was not satisfied at all at what they have given on the Wiki.

  3. B Chopra permalink
    July 20, 2007 3:59 pm

    She is intelligent & one among few good congresswomen.. good spokeswoman for congress.. and overall Good n smart POLITICIAN.. and these days she is too harsh on men community.. donno why she considers all men same?

    waiting to see what other people say about her?

  4. July 20, 2007 4:03 pm

    She is a courageous lady no doubt, but some times she gets carried away and doesn’t know where to stop.
    She did generalise men.To me it seemed so at least. What really puts me of is her psycophancy. The way she shed tears when Sonia Gandhi refused Prime ministership was embarrasing. I apreciated Sonia Gandhis gesture too but shedding tears in public in full media glare is not done.
    I have heard her speak in a few debates and she was quite rude at times.

  5. July 20, 2007 4:28 pm

    Cannot argue with your there Prerna. Yes, she is all that you said. And her chamchoing too is quite sick…
    but then if we compare her to the other politicians she seems better.
    Bharat, I don’t think she considers all men like that, After all she is married! But yes, I think many people think that she is against men. I really don’t think so. But maybe I am in the minority…
    but if this impression has been created….just think what she surrounded by everyday…no I don’t mean politicians. 🙂 I mean if she is helping abused women fight domestic violence, freeing them from sati and dowry etc, then she is coming into contact with such type of people a lot. this could affect her. Like you know policemen tend to be more suspicious of people in general…but anyway in my opinion she doesn’t hate all men.
    Prerna, this is an aside, not connected with Renuka, but Sonia. I heard that she refused the Prime MInistership because Kalam refused to let her become the PM because of some constitutional and technical thing…I had heard of this talked about. but recently I saw it on the internet too. Don’t know how true it is, as these things never come out. But I don’t know why, Ibelieve it. That is why Sonia hates Kalam.

  6. B Chopra permalink
    July 20, 2007 5:47 pm

    I understand her intentions are good .. but language she used recently is abusive.

    Renuka says: ‘Indian men cannot be trusted in Sex’

    “You cannot trust men or your husbands, with apologies to the men present here,” she told a meeting of the National Women Forum of Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

    “If you believe that men will be careful, then you can forget about protecting yourself,” the minister said. “Men will not buy a condom when they come staggering home while drunk”, Chowdhury said, adding that women must not be embarrassed to ask for condoms.

    “Women need to get condoms to protect themselves; let the men be suspicious,” she said.


    and about law.. They should be ‘gender neutral’.. don’t forget many have been misutilised like Dowry harrassment cases earlier to extort money.

    Potential misuse of the new law would affect women too and would bring minor differences in a marriage to a point of no return.

    To read more – Source:

  7. axinia permalink
    July 20, 2007 6:32 pm

    Very interesting article, Nita! I hope it will work out for the women of India…

  8. July 20, 2007 7:31 pm

    Bharat, I can’t agree with you there, on laws should be gender neutral. true, some men have been harrassed and its absolutely wrong…but I think in our country women get a raw deal.
    The problems is that the harsh reality amongst the real India is very different, the women in tribal areas for example, in rural areas. They are the majority, and those women need the protection of the law. And funnily inspite of that, they don’t get it. Panchayats and tribal law always takes precedence. So the patriachs finally rule. What you mention is more a phenomena in urban areas (but even then the cases where women are harassed are far more) and yes such cases should be fought tooth and nail. Misuse of every law should be severly punished. That should be done, severe punishment for anyone who misuses the law.
    Also about the marraige breaking up, don’t you think that any woman who misues the dowry law for example already wants to break up with her husband.
    There was an interesting case recently amongst an acquaintance of mine in Delhi recently. They are very wealthy people and her 18 year daughter got involved iwth a middle class boy who was ten years older. The girl insisted on marrying him and finally the parents agreed. Immediately afterwards the harassment started. No, not for dowry. But general bullying, ill treatment and physical abuse. The girl was just a kid and ran away to her parents and said she did not want to return. The parents approached the boy for a divorce but he refused. Finally they called a lawyer and threatened him with the dowry law..and he immediately granted the divorce. I know this family (they are from U.P.) and they re extremely decent people. The girl is the sweetest thing I know, very beautiful. She was adamant that she never wanted to go this boy, it was not the parents who insisted on the divorce. Also, I feel that any decent man will grant a divorce but this man wanted to create trouble. And considering that he was beating up his wife at every opportunity, it was the right decision for her to leave.
    Also, it is important to look at the statistics about how many women this is helping as against how many women are misusing the law. I am sure you will find that it won’t even be .01 percent of women (as compared to women who are being helped) who are misusing it.

    You have quoted her as saying:
    ““If you believe that men will be careful, then you can forget about protecting yourself,” the minister said. “Men will not buy a condom when they come staggering home while drunk”, Chowdhury said, adding that women must not be embarrassed to ask for condoms.”

    Now tell me do you really think she is referring to all men? In fact this quote simply confirms my belief that she is talking of certain type of men…

  9. July 21, 2007 2:37 am

    Renuka is indeed one of the finest leaders India has currently. One of the reasons I disliked her was her defection to Congress and loyalty (slavery?) to Sonia Gandhi. The word ‘Gandhi’ has a magical influence on Indians. Maybe you could blog about it sometime. 🙂

  10. B Chopra permalink
    July 21, 2007 2:43 pm

    True.. her measures would help large number of community..

    I am convinced with your views.. Thanks 🙂

  11. Ramesh Natarajan permalink
    July 28, 2007 3:11 am

    Though there is a Sharp drop in Aids in India, by absolute numbers it is still very high number (2.5 to 3 million).

    When she is quoting that men cannot be trusted.. it is obviously cannot be taken in general referring to every men in the world. However, we need such provoking statements and loud message to reach the rural community who are not aware of this disease.

    Ramesh Natarajan
    Global Indian

  12. July 28, 2007 6:52 am

    Ramesh, you have expressed my feelings exactly. It was obvious to me from the start that she was not talking about men in general. It was the media which tried to hype it up but even then I saw through it! And as you said, one has to talk to certain groups of people in very strong language otherwise they don’t get the message.

  13. July 28, 2007 4:49 pm

    I’m sorry, and I mean no disrespect to your opinion, but Renuka C is a joke. I feel ashamed when I meet people here who have heard of her (thankfully that isn’t a lot). More than Laloo, Modi, Mayawati, she is more embarassing. You might ask why, and the reason is because she is “the face of the intellectual indian woman”.

    I think I said something like this in one of your earlier posts, can’t recall which one. It was about the Pro-women acts she was passing.

    Lastly, I see no difference between her attitude and the “Jehadis”.


  14. July 28, 2007 5:06 pm

    I don’t remember you saying this before…
    ofcourse you are entitled to your opinion! She is a public figure and has her fans and gets brickbats too. Whether she is an intellectual or not I don’t know, because intellectuals are rarely doers. She is a doer and I am sure an intelligent woman too. btw the definition of an intellectual is:
    scholarly, thinker, cerebral, academic
    She is certainly not an intellectual in the real meaning of the term!
    As to comparing her to Laloo or the Jehadis, well what can i say? 🙂

  15. July 28, 2007 5:07 pm

    Quoting Ramesh:
    “When she is quoting that men cannot be trusted.. it is obviously cannot be taken in general referring to every men in the world. However, we need such provoking statements and loud message to reach the rural community who are not aware of this disease. ”

    So will it be acceptable if a male minister had said something of the kind about women? Forget ministers, what if i had said it? Well, I would be labeled sexist, or an MCP or some such thing, wouldn’t I? So why the double standards within the demand for equality?

  16. July 28, 2007 5:11 pm

    Btw, she HAS been labeled, even though she is a woman. Ramesh and I are obviously the minority opinions. Everyone has labeled her, including you, and thats what I was writing about!

  17. July 28, 2007 5:33 pm

    Interesting thought. Perhaps my usage of intellectual was flawed. But any intelligent person knows not to generalise to such a degree. And generalise she did if she said “Men cannot be trusted”.

    As for the Laloo and Jehadis part, I am not saying they are better than her. The point is, their attitudes are alike. Not caring what happens to those that get caught in the cross-fire. Perhaps even targeting, (intentionally or subconsciously) those caught in the cross fire.

    And I will have to go through your blog to find that particular article, will do it at leisure. As for what I think I said there, it has something to do with the DV act. And her attitude towards the questions raised by Karan Thapar on The Devil’s Advocate go to show how “dedicated” she is to “The Cause”.

    The labeling is done by a minority. Those who are willing to risk their neck. Try making an anti-women (deemed as sexist, even if true) comment within an “awakened” group and you can feel the wrath of ex-communication. I am using those words as a hyperbole so don’t go berserk.

    She on the other hand has achieved demi-god status. I don’t see how you can miss the disparity.

  18. July 28, 2007 5:42 pm

    I don’t think this debate can be settled in text. Feminists love their status of the down-trodden underdogs, here to claim their right.

    An example/analogy was evading me thus far. You seem to interpret the generalisation the way you want. So when she says “Men are pigs”, you don’t see her saying ALL men are pigs, you say she is out there to get the message across to the men that ARE pigs and hence its a justified generalisation.

    So what if I said women that dress scantily/ in western clothes/ in jeans/ you get the drift are characterless? Why isn’t it you don’t jump straight into the arena and add how I am only talking about the women that dress scantily AND are characterless?

    I have always maintained that feminism is a philosophy for the hypocrites. The F’s prove it time and again.

    I rest my case.

  19. July 28, 2007 5:43 pm

    No, I do not think she generalised…anywya thats a matter of opinion.
    I have never written about Karan Thapar on my blog. Maybe you left a comment on someone’s else’s blog about this.
    and I am afraid you are wrong (you live in the US?) about the labeling being done by the minority. after she made the statement the whole media went to town calling her things because of that statement. people just jumped on her, and that is why I wrote. Unfortunately in our country we are too quick to put adverse labels on women, and men suffer less. I can give you many examples, but that is not the subject here.

    true, she is a demi-god today in indian politics, but so are lot of other people. Are you saying them women shouldn’t be elevated to that status? I am sure you don’t mean that!
    when you say:
    //Try making an anti-women (deemed as sexist, even if true) comment within an “awakened” group and you can feel the wrath of ex-communication.//
    let me assure you that we don’t get too many ‘awakened groups here.’
    Also when it comes to ‘going berserk’ I think you need to watch out my friend. But I understand, you are young.

  20. July 28, 2007 5:55 pm

    Frankly I don’t understand you analogy. Renuka Chowdhury was talking of men who are unfaithful to their partners by going to prostitutes and picking up infections. Whats the connection between that and your analogy???
    I am afraid feminism is different in the west and different here. There it may be what you say, but here it is about stopping female foeticide, dowry, sati and domestic violence. So please do not judge indian women and men by western values.

  21. July 28, 2007 6:04 pm

    Firstly, I am sorry if my tone is agressive. I don’t expect you to understand where I am coming from. Secondly, I am currently in the US. That has no bearing to my opinion as I have spent just a year here.

    As far as my knowledge of grammar goes, that statement is a generalisation, and where she said it, and to whom is trying to shift context to lessen its pungency.

    The comment I had made was not on a post of yours about Thapar, but it was a post about some pro-women measures that RC is taking.

    Next, the media does not denote the majority. And when I meant “awakened” groups, I am talking mainly in the metropolitan cities amongst people my own age group. My interaction with rural indians and/or adults has been quite minimal. I have not, so far, come across anyone support me, even when I am right, or considered the possibilty that there is sense within the nonsense. So you will forgive me if I think that us “sexists” have less credibility than the feminists, even if we are right.

    Lastly, I do not mean to sound insensitive to the atrocities that women face all over India, BY VIRTUE OF THEIR BEING WOMEN. I think the caps is an important addition to the oft ranted statement. Should she work towards women’s rights? No doubt about it. The question is what methods are acceptable. Men have been ***holes for centuries so it doesnt matter if women dish us some of our own medicine is a flawed logic to work on. RC has gone on record on the Karan T show saying that bad laws are better than no laws.

    If I can inexactly quote:
    KT: Are you saying Bad laws are better than no laws?

    RC: (I think she fumbles), YES.

    Anyway, chances are you are going to stick to your opinion of her, and me mine. And all the debate and cyberspace will not be enough to resolve this. All I can say is, let us wait for her report card at the end of her tenure. Lets see how she has done. And as importantly, lets see how many *innocent* men have been the brunt of her law as victimised women have been saved by it. That is going to be the most interesting thing to note.

  22. July 28, 2007 6:14 pm

    //as importantly, lets see how many *innocent* men have been the brunt of her law as victimised women have been saved by it//
    well, that is a foregone conclusion as the numbers are too heavily weighted against women.
    However I am glad you understand that I am not talking of drawing room conversations and debates between educated indians, but social activism. that is what this post is about. atrocities against women, not feminism.
    //chances are you are going to stick to your opinion of her, and me mine.//
    its not a question of sticking to my opinion…but a question of seeing her in a pragmatic light, as a person, not just a woman.
    She is not perfect, and nor are her methods, but the woman is doing something. She will learn from any mistakes she makes, her loud mouth for example…the main thing is that our country needs women like her. We need clean, honest politicians.

  23. July 29, 2007 2:36 pm

    This is a little OT. But I had read somewhere some time back but didnt have the necessary proof to back it up. Found it now, so I guess Ill let you read it and decide for yourself

    If a man had done that to a woman cop? If laloo had done that to a woman cop he’d have lost all respect from his people and his vote bank. Maybe now you understand what I mean when I say demi god.

  24. July 29, 2007 2:53 pm

    Now I am going to laugh out loud. 😀 you have given the same link I have! Please read my post carefully before writing all this. You are simply revealing that you are making judgments about my post without even reading it properly!
    I think we are talking about two different things – you are talking of your dislike of an individual and I am talking about an individual who is helping take our country forward, inspite of the faults.

  25. July 31, 2007 3:30 pm

    My bad. And I am not judging you, or your post. I have grown to have scant respect for those that accept “positive discrimination”, and hence, whether you think she is pro-active or not, will hardly affect my opinion of her, in the same way as I have little respect for Arjun Singh.

    Everything she has done, has been in effect positive discrimination (the same ideology as the caste based reservations). And lastly, it is more harmful to ACT for the purpose of appearing to make a difference. True, she has spoken for a few causes in her day, like introducing Sex-ed in schools. But has she been as pro-active in that cause (which I think, in the end will lead to solving a lot more problems as compared to the laws she is passing). I guess I’m sleepy right now and just rambling, but if she is “a clean and honest politician” as you claim (I wouldnt assume to know), she is clearly misguided and that is as bad as being corrupt, for the nation atleast.

    And as I have made the blunder to give you your own link, I guess I need to redeem the lost act. Wiki to the rescue.

    And this one is my personal favourite.
    “If any man is found misusing a child for trafficking or peddling of drugs, he should be liable for capital punishment.”

  26. November 28, 2007 5:02 pm

    I am a research student frome Banaras Hindu University on topic of “socio-economic candition of women worker in bpo’s callcenter”.so Irequest to you to gnant me help on this topic

  27. November 28, 2007 6:14 pm

    @vikas sharde:

    I am not an expert on th socio-economic condition of women. I have gathered the information on this blog through sheer hard work, by researching the net, and I advise you to do the same.

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