A politician in India is getting criticism after referring to her opponent as “worse than a transgender person.”
Sadhana Singh, who represents Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the regional Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly, made the comments at a rally on December 19.
The elected politician had taken aim at Kumari Mayawati, the head of the rival Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), for entering an anti-BJP pact in the region with the Samajwadi Party (SP).
According to the Mumbai Mirror, Sadhana said: “Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati sold her dignity for power and joined hands with those who disrespected her… She is a blot on womankind.
“Cannot say if she can be counted among men or women, she is worse than a transgender person.”
The comments alluded to a 1995 violent incident in which BSP chief Mayawati was briefly held hostage by SP supporters.
Sadhana Singh criticised by India political leaders
The remarks led to a wave of criticism, with the National Commission for Women demanding an explanation from the politician.
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BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra said that it shows “the level BJP has sunk to,” adding: “They do not have strength to win even a single seat in Uttar Pradesh.”
SP leader Akhilesh Yadav said: “These kind of derogatory comments are grossly unacceptable.
“It is a sign of BJP’s moral bankruptcy and desperation. This is also an insult to the women of the country.”
Sadhana Singh told News18 that she does not regret the comments, again accusing Mayawati of letting down “all women” by working with the SP.
However, she added in a statement: “My intention was not to insult anyone… I apologise if my words have caused grief to anyone.”
Attitudes towards LGBT+ people in India are shifting
Gay sex became legal in India in September 2018, when the country’s Supreme Court struck down British colonial-era law Section 377.
Lawmakers have also put forward a transgender rights bill, aimed to protect trans citizens, though some have warned the legislation could unwittingly have a negative impact.
Critics say the bill is problematic because it requires members of the trans community to be assessed by “screening committees” to determine whether a person is trans or not.
Madhumita, a trans woman, told The Times of India that the bill threatens the trans community, adding that provisions in the bill ban trans citizens from begging, which many are forced to rely on for their income.