Some female leaders!

Women are not inherently passive or peaceful. – Robin Morgan

Female political leaders are not different from male political leaders in South Asia. Their acts are not less misogynistic than male leaders. Like male leaders they have no agenda to change patriarchal structure of society, or to get rid of anti-women laws, or to fight women-hating traditions. Like male leaders they believe in religion and patriarchy. Their own misogyny lowers themselves to the level of male leaders. They are no less cruel, barbaric, unethical, inhumane than men. Obviously, they believe in their own right to free expression but do not believe in their opponent’s right to free expression.

Khaleda Zia. Former prime minister and opposition leader of Bangladesh. During her regime, she did not change any of the religious laws that discriminate against women. She did not take any action against those religious fanatics who issued fatwas against women and stoned numerous women to death. She filed a case against me on the charges of hurting religious feelings and issued a non bailable arrest warrant against me. She forced me to leave my country in 1994 and did not let me enter since then. My crime was I opposed persecution of minorities, women’s oppression, anti-women religions-cultures-customs-traditions. She banned four books of mine. Lajja (Shame), Utal Hawa (Gusty Wind), Ko (Speak up), Sei sob andhokar (Those Dark Days).

Sheikh Hasina. Prime minister of Bangladesh. She prefers to have anti-women religious laws in her country. She does not take any initiative to replace family laws (marriage law, divorce law, child custody law, inheritance law) that are based on religion with a uniform civil code based on equality and justice. She said she would secularize the constitution but could not remove Islamic religious references from the constitution. She liked to retain Islam as the state religion. She favoured retaining ‘Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim’(In the name of Allah the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful) above the preamble of the constitution. She legalized fatwas, the religious edicts. She banned Amar Meyebela (My Girlhood), one of the award winning books of mine. She has been preventing me a secular feminist writer from returning to my country. When my mother was on her deathbed, I was desperate to go back to Bangladesh but she violently opposed my wishes. A few years after that, when my father lay dying, I begged, pleaded, and cried to be allowed to see him if only for two days. She refused to permit me entry.

Mamata Banerjee. Chief minister of West Bengal, India. She is not a Muslim but she is wearing a hijab. She is having Islamic prayer after observing Islamic fasting during the month of Islamic Ramadan. She even says ‘La ilaha illallaha muhammadur rasulullah,’which means ‘there is no God but Allah, Muhammad is His Messenger’. She has given recognition to ten thousand Koranic schools. Everything she is doing to appease Muslims for their votes. She has recently been blaming raped girls for being raped. She said, ‘ rapes happening because men and women are interacting freely.’ She cancelled the launching of my latest book ‘Nirbason’ (Exile) at Kolkata book fair this year. She is against my return to West Bengal, the state that had been my home for years.

You’re a woman, it doesn’t mean you will fight for women’s rights and freedom. A man can be a feminist. A woman can very well be a misogynist. It is true women are not inherently anything but human. They are not inherently passive or peaceful.


  1. mynameischeese says

    In my more optimistic moments, I like to think that women like you will have more impact than women like them.

  2. charleschambers says

    In light of the many enemies you seem to have made among both men and women of your home country, do you ever have any self-doubts? Do you ever suspect that perhaps you might be wrong in your progressive beliefs concerning women’s rights?

  3. Milon Ahmed. says

    That’s right. Khaleda, Hasina and Mamata all are the same. Physically they are females but actually their characters are like male.

    • Kilian Hekhuis says

      If you mean “like typical male South Asia political leaders” I agree, but otherwise I’d find it rather offensive. As Taslima wrote, “a man can be a feminist”.

  4. F says

    ‘rapes happening because men and women are interacting freely.’

    That’s a festival of oxymoronic non sequitur. Rape is the opposite of free interaction.

    • Kilian Hekhuis says

      The opposite of something can happen as the result of that something happening. I think it is quite clear what she meant (or wanted her voters to think what she meant). Which is of course another call for oppression of women.

  5. S Mukherjee says

    Great post, Taslima. These women leaders, and many others in the sub-continent and Asia, exploit patriarchal constructs such as the Grieving Widow, the Dutiful Daughter, the Kindly Big Sister, etc in order to attain power. Of course they would do nothing to attack the patriarchy — they benefit hugely from it!

  6. says

    Well, yes. There’s kind of a feeling that people get that “oh, hey, I’m a member of [oppressed group] and I made it to the top, so I’ve already done enough for equality and I can just ignore that whole side of things”. There’s even commonly a notion that members of oppressed groups who gain power shouldn’t try to right those specific wrongs because there will be more than ordinary backlash. I’m surprised there aren’t more stains on walls, what with the way that any sensible person constantly feels like beating their head against one.

    I haven’t seen any specific claims, but I will not be surprised — disappointed, but not surprised — to see, sooner or later, a study which shows that African-Americans were even more unfairly targeted by federal law enforcement under Obama than under Bush. Nor would have I been surprised, had Hillary Clinton won instead of Obama, if her cabinet had been almost completely male like Obama’s is.

    “Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.” — Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

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