NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sparked outrage after he praised his Bangladeshi counterpart for her courage to fight terrorism “despite being a woman”, triggering an avalanche of criticism on social media site Twitter.
#DespiteBeingAWoman was one of the top trends on the micro blogging site on Monday, with users expressing anger at what they said was a bigoted and sexist remark and posting pictures of famous female scientists, politicians and athletes.
Modi, who was on a two-day official visit to neighbouring Bangladesh, on Sunday told an audience at Dhaka University that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina showed that she was committed to ending terrorism which has plagued both South Asian nations.
“The world has still not found a solution on how to tackle terrorism. Even the U.N. is not in a position to provide guidance,” said Modi.
“I am happy that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, despite being a woman, is openly saying that she has zero tolerance for terrorism. I would like to congratulate Sheikh Hasina for her courage to deal with terrorism with zero tolerance,” he added.
Twitter users went into a frenzy early on Monday as Modi’s comments were picked up by local media, with many taking pot-shots at the Indian leader’s remark.
“How can you even say or think #despitebeingawoman when your own country had a great female PM way before most first world countries! Shame!” tweeted a Mumbai-based fashion blogger from the twitter handle @Fashionopolis.
“Mentality of Men’s supremacy remains in the mind of Men always to show down the woman with words like #DespiteBeingAWoman,” tweeted user Panchal under the handle @NotNewToAny1.
Some users chose sarcasm to make their point.
“ok. off to work. after cooking sending kid to school to write big story and run errands. like every other woman i know #despitebeingawoman,” tweeted Gayatri Jayaraman, senior editor at India Today.
Users also posted images of successful women - from former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks and education activist Malala Yousafzai to physicist Marie Curie - under the hashtag #DespiteBeingAWoman.