India’s Modi just delivered the world’s worst compliment

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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves with Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka June 6. Modi arrived in Dhaka for a two-day state visit to Bangladesh. (Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters)

Many Indians woke up Monday to a surge of outrage on Twitter and Facebook against their Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It revolved around the words “DespiteBeingAWoman.”

The hashtag #DespiteBeingAWoman was triggered by Modi’s praise for his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Sunday during his visit.

“I am happy that Bangladesh Prime Minister, despite being a woman, has declared zero tolerance for terrorism,” Modi said in a speech on Sunday at the Dhaka University.

It is not uncommon for Indian politicians -- and Modi’s colleagues in his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party -- to make sexist and misogynist remarks. But since he was elected to the nation’s highest post a year ago, Modi has carefully constructed a pro-woman image. During the Independence Day speech last year, he spoke about rising sexual assaults on women and blamed Indian parents for not raising their sons well. He has promoted programs against female feticide and discrimination against female children child in Indian families.

But Sunday’s gaffe created a stir. Overnight, the hashtag gained ground.

“Even though the remark was meant to be a gesture of praise, social-media users interpreted it as an insult women around the world,” wrote news portal Scroll.in. “Twitter started buzzing with tweets attached with pictures of women achievers of India; scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation, foreign ministers, sportswomen and more.”

Here is a sample:

Managed to wake up & eat breakfast #DespiteBeingAWoman

— swati chaturvedi (@bainjal) June 8, 2015

I can punch you in the face and make it look so lady-like #DespiteBeingAWoman
India’s Modi just delivered the world’s worst compliment - The Washington Post
 
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