Union New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah got himself into a controversy on Friday after he told reporters that women should not be employed as personal secretaries as it could land male employers in jail in case of complaint of sexual harassment. He apologised soon after realising the faux pas, as even his son, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, said he should do so.
Asked to comment on sexual assault cases involving important people, Abdullah said outside Parliament Friday morning, “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 forbidding, if there is some complaint we may land in jail.”
When asked if he was blaming women for these cases, he said, “I am not blaming the girl. I am blaming society itself. Society has reached a stage where complaints are coming from the other side.”
“Rapes should not take place. The number of girls has gone down. When a child is born we pray for a son. When a girl is born we cry,” he said.
Soon after, Abdullah’s comments started drawing flak from all quarters, especially women leaders, including from his ally Congress, who called it “an irresponsible statement”.
Abdullah later said he was sorry if something he said was wrong and that he never meant it in the manner people had taken it. “I feel terribly sorry that people are misunderstanding things and they are misquoting things in many ways. There is no question of anything to derogate. I feel time has come there must be justice and there must be 33 per cent reservation in Parliament as quickly as possible,” he said. “If something went wrong, I am sorry for that. I never meant it in the manner people have taken it.”
Referring to his earlier comments, Congress women’s wing chief Shobha Oza said, “It is an irresponsible statement. The time has come for people, especially people’s representatives and those in authority, to be more responsible in their thinking and statements as far are issues of women and atrocities against them are concerned. He has apologised. It is fine that he has accepted it was an insensitive statement.”
BJP leader Smriti Irani 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”.
CPM leader Brinda