Cutting across party lines, women leaders today criticized Union Minister Farooq Abdullah for his controversial statement that hiring female personal secretaries can land one in jail if there is any complaint of sexual harassment.
"In our constitution, both the genders have equal rights but so far, women have been living in fear. If someone thinks so, that mindset should be changed," Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath told reporters outside Parliament.
BJP leader Smriti Irani expressed surprise over Abdullah's remarks and said it was "inappropriate" for a senior Minister to make a statement that indicates that "women can be hired and called upon favorably and they can be demeaned at workplace."
Irani said people should understand that it is a very sensitive issue and should not give an indication "that if a women speaks about her rights at work place, that is a sign of danger."
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said it was "irresponsible for such a senior Minister to say such a thing when the country is shocked that men in higher office use their offices to make unwelcome sexual advances."
Karat said a statement like this implies that women should not make complaints against sexual harassment and if she does, she will be unemployable.
"The other implication is that all these are false charges. It is highly inappropriate and he should withdraw his statement immediately," Karat demanded.
Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Farooq Abdullah today kicked up a controversy saying ladies should not be hired as personal secretaries as one can land in jail if there is any complaint of sexual harassment. He later apologized for his remarks.
"These days the situation is such that one is scared of talking to girls. We feel that a lady should not be hired as a secretary. God forbid, if there is some complaint we may land in jail," the National Conference leader told reporters outside Parliament House.