On October 10, World Mental Health Day, a speech by Karnataka's Health Minister K. Sudhakar on managing stress in the extremely competitive world took a subtle detour and a low dig at how women in the 21st century choose to live their lives. The speech delivered at Bengaluru's National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), an excerpt of which was shared on social media, left the netizens divided on how the patriarchal system in India continues to believe that onus of a failing family system lies on women. 

"I am sorry to say this but a lot of modern women in India want to stay single. Even if they get married, don't want to give birth. They want service. So there is a paradigm shift in our thinking which is not good," stated K. Sudhakar who was speaking about stress management in today's competitive world.

k sudhakar

While some netizens couldn't understand the need for his anti-feminism remark on the occasion, a few radical thinking men even stood up for their female counterparts. 

Netizens irked by remarks

Bengaluru-based Ravi, a retired engineer shared on Twitter, "What is the connection? Can't a married woman, or a mother work?"

Another Twitterati, Indranil felt that women's representation in the Indian workforce is as it is low and such a remark is highly regressive. "Women's participation in the workforce in India is at a measly 20%. India ranks 146th in the world. Bangladesh is at 33, China is at 40%. If India has to progress rapidly, step 1 is more women in the workforce, and much less of such a regressive mindset." While the numbers pointed out in the remark may not be apt but it does throw light on the employment disparity.

Representational image: Women employment took a major hit during the pandemic
Representational image: Women employment took a major hit during the pandemicReuters

According to a report published by Statista Research Department in March this year, the share of women's participation at work was around 36 percent in 2021 in comparison with 64 percent by men. Although the women's participation share seems to have increased from the previous years, overall, the share of men's participation at work continues to be much higher compared to women in India. Another study by Swaniti Initiative in previous years highlighted gender differences in the country as a major reason for the low employment of women in the country. 

"... In comparison to other South Asian countries, India does not perform well in terms of Female LFPR," the report revealed. LFPR in this context stands for Labour Force Participation Rate. The report even quoted the Economic Survey 2017-2018 which rightly points out the need for more participation of women workforce to ensure economic growth. 

The Health Minister's words delivered at the forum, which would have otherwise gone unnoticed, picked a pace after Journalist and Equal rights, equal opportunity champion Faye DSouza shared her strong view on the matter. 

"Ah! The modern woman of India, source of all problems. If only women would marry and stay at home we would solve unemployment, poverty, petrol and LPG prices, lack of hospital beds, potholed roads, electricity shortage, crime and hunger," she tweeted.

Exactly last year, in October 2020, netizens resurfaced Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath's old, derogatory views on independent women pointed out in an essay. According to news reports, six years back, Adityanath had written an essay on the role of women in Indian culture on his website and made a case that women required protection and should not be allowed independence, as "it may lead to wastefulness or destruction of women".