Senior Congress leader Renuka Chowdhary on Tuesday raised many eyebrows by saying that “not just film industry and other work spaces, even Parliament is not immune to the casting couch”.
Chaudhury also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for denigrating her as a woman in the past by indirectly referring to her as “Surpnakha” in Parliament when she had laughed at one of his statements.
Chaudhury’s remark came after veteran Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan said that casting couch was prevalent in all sectors, and not just in the film industry where it “provides livelihood at least”. Khan later apologised for her comment.
“Yes, it is the bitter truth. The whole film industry may get up in arms against me. It’s just not in the film industry, this happens everywhere, in work spaces, with women. It happens everywhere. So, don’t imagine that Parliament is immune or some other work space is immune. It’s not,” Chowdhary told reporters.
“… if you look at the western world today, established top actresses have taken this long to come out and say ‘me too’. It’s time India stood up and say ‘me too’,” she added.
Chowdhary said the term “casting couch” cannot be narrowed down to one sphere.
“It means when you take away the privileges of women and use it for your personal benefit, or in lieu of other compensation,” the Congress leader said, adding that there is a law to prevent sexual harassment at workplaces.
“When the country’s Prime Minister insult a woman, that is denigrating. That is against law. That is denigrating my status as woman.
“You have taken away my dignity in Parliament, when the Prime Minister has spoken in a way that is derogatory to my status as a woman. Can a PM say that I remind him of Surpnakha. I am Surpanakha, I don’t want to become Sita,” said Chaudhury.
She said: “When Home Minister (MoS) Kiren Rijiju uploads offensive videos against me, only because I had the courage to speak. So, when they talk in a way, that is derogatory to my status as women. It exists in Parliament… they talk about us like this and they are derogatory,” she added.
Chowdhary said: “I am backing every women. Like I said, forget ‘me too’, this is ‘you too’. We have to say this.”