Bengaluru, Oct 11 (IANS): Karnataka Health Minister K. Sudhakar on Sunday waded into controversy by claiming that Indian women want to stay single, and that "even after marriage, they do not want to give birth to children, and are opting for surrogacy", adding this was "not a good development".
However, Sudhakar's statements did not go down well with women's organisations, which condemned the generalised statement, stressing that women are free to decide whether to have a child or not.
In his address on the occasion of the World Mental Health Day at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS), he also said: "I am sorry to say this, there is a paradigm shift in our thinking which is not good. To come out of everyday stress is an art. Yoga and meditation are the solutions. However, people are following western culture. This stress load must be put out and taking a walk for half an hour in the parks will help a lot in this direction."
"Unfortunately we do not want our parents to be with us and forget about grandparents. Some mental issue of mild, moderate and severe nature is bothering every seventh Indian," he said.
Noting that during Covid, many suffered mental depression, he said: "We are carrying out counselling for Covid patients. About 24 lakh Covid patients are counselled. The situation of not being able to touch the bodies of dear ones caused them tremendous mental suffering. We have 0.3 per cent of psychological experts whose number needs to be increased. We will work towards increasing their number."
Reacting to his statement about women, All India Democratic Women's Association Vice President Vimala K.S. told IANS that one minister from the ruling BJP states that women should not go out and another is recommending walks.
Some want to bring laws to control population and some say women are not wanting babies, she said, adding that they speak different dialects.
"It is freedom of women whether to have a baby or not. He must have forgotten that a large section of women in this country do not have the rights over their bodies," she said.
"Being a minister, issuing a sweeping statement is not good... and while being a Health Minister, is not acceptable. Let minister Sudhakar prove his statement. How many women have these choices? Like women, many men do not want to have children. Why no one says anything to them," Vimala added.
Equal rights activist Brinda Adige told IANS that Sudhakar's statement is "sexist, patriarchal, and unbecoming of a minister".
"He is talking about a minuscule number of people and his statement is not based on research. He is making statements on women's choices which is what we do not want...
"Look at our laws. There is hardly any support from the government for mothers. How many government officers offer the service of creches... big corporate houses... what support they are giving," she asked.
It is not only giving birth, it involves looking after the children. If at all government wanted to make statements it should have spoken how they can help mothers, Adige added.