With the Congress throwing its support behind the government's Bill on insurance reform, the legislation was expected to pass in the Rajya Sabha with minimum drama this week. Until the Janata Dal (United)’s Sharad Yadav took the floor of the house on Thursday, that is. In the middle of his speech, Yadav inexplicably launched into a sexist rant about how India is fixated with fair skin.

It is this obsession, argued Yadav in the House of Elders, that has led to the proposal to raise foreign direct investment in the insurance sector from 26% to 49%. “Matrimonial ads also ask for fair- skinned brides,” he complained.

It got even more bizarre. “In the entire country there are more saanvle [dark-skinned] men," he said. 'The women of south are beautiful, their bodies...their skin ...We don't see it here.” He added that their beauty was a consequence of the fact that South Indian women “know dance”.

Leslee Udwin, the director the controversial BBC documentary India's Daughter, also came under fire. Yadav maintained that she was given permission to shoot in restricted areas like Tihar jail because she was a “fair-skinned women” for whom “all doors open”.

When some parliamentarians objected to these offensive remarks, Yadav brushed them aside, remarking that every debate need not be serious.

His remarks have caused a furore, but in many ways, his nonchalance is understandable. In a society as sexist as India’s, its electoral representatives have taken misogyny to a fine art. Cutting across parties, states and levels of seniority, politicians have displayed shocking levels of sexism, most of the time without any electoral backlash.

Here are some of the more outrageous statements from the recent past.

1. 'Boys are boys': Mulayam Singh Yadav, Samajwadi Party
If there ever was an award for misogyny in Indian politics, the Samajwadi Party would win by a landslide. At an election rally in April, party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav dismissed a gang-rape in Mumbai's abandoned Shakti Mills with the declaration that “boys are boys”.

He said:
 "The poor fellows, three of them have been sentenced to death. Should rape cases lead to hanging? Boys are boys, they make mistakes. Two or three have been given the death sentence in Mumbai. We will try and change such laws...we will also ensure punishment of those who report false cases."

This wasn't his only offensive statement. His political battles with Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati have also brought out his sexist side. For instance, after Maywati got a bob-cut a few years ago, Yadav called her a "parkati aurat", a short-haired woman.

That is a term with which Sharad Yadav is familiar too. He once used it to dismiss a young Barkha Dutt.


2. Hindu women should have between four and ten children: Assorted BJP leaders
Women being pressed into the service of the Hindu community as baby-producing machines is an old trope of the Hindutva brigade, driven by irrational fears of a Muslim demographic takeover of India.

In January, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj declared that every Hindu woman should have four children to keep the group's numbers dominant. This sparked a bidding war of sorts. A BJP leader from Bengal, Shyamal Goswami, raised this number to five while the Shankaracharya of Badrikashram, Shri Vasudevanand Saraswati, urged Hindu women to have ten children each.

3. Stay indoors to prevent rape: Botsa Satyanarayana, Congress
In the aftermath of the Delhi 2012 gang-rape, the solution to sexual assault proposed by the Andhra Pradesh Congress chief, Botsa Satyanarayana, was simple: keep women indoors. Here’s his full statement:
"Just because India achieved freedom at midnight does not mean that women can venture out after dark. They should ensure that they do not board buses with few passengers. The woman should have thought twice before boarding the suspicious private bus that night. Though the incident was condemnable, she should also have behaved keeping in mind the situation. Although it [Delhi gang-rape] was a minor incident, Soniaji made it a point to meet the protesters when they called on her."

4. 'Dented and painted women': Abhijit Mukherjee, Congress
President Pranab Mukherjee’s son, Abhijit Mukherjee, for whatever reason, did not take too kindly to the Delhi protesters at India Gate in the aftermath of the December 2012 gang-rape. Characterising them as “dented and painted women”, he claimed that the activists had come out right after a bout of dancing at the discotheque.

However, his statement become more famous for television anchor Arnab Goswami’s theatrical reaction to it rather than Mukherjee’s crass sexism. Tearing into the politician on his show, Goswami extracted an apology from Mukherjee and, after that, went on to berate him for what seemed like an hour.

This shrill Newshour episode was even mixed into an extremely popular video.

 5. Marry off girls early to prevent rape: Om Prakash Chautala, Indian National Lok Dal
In 2012, the former chief minister of Haryana proposed that sexual assault would be prevented if women married when they were young.  “We should learn from the past, especially in the Mughal era, people used to marry their girls to save them from Mughal atrocities and currently a similar situation is arising in the state,” said Chautala, seemingly unaware of the irony of wanting to turn the clock back to the medieval age as a solution for rape.

6. Urbanisation causes rape: Mohan Bhagwat, RSS
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, it seems, agrees with Om Chautala in principle: the medieval age is where the solution lies. Berating cities for the spread of “rape culture", Bhagwat argued in 2013 that “such crimes [rapes] hardly take place in Bharat, but they frequently occur in India”.

7. '50 crore ki girlfriend': Narendra Modi, BJP
At a rally in 2012, Narendra Modi took a potshot at Shashi Tharoor by denigrating the Congress politician's wife, Sunanda Pushkar. "Wah kya girlfriend hai," he said. "Apne kabhi dekha hai 50 crore ka girlfriend?" What a girlfriend! Have you ever seen a Rs 50-crore girlfriend?

This was a jibe at the purported value of the stake that Pushkar, who later died in mysterious circumstances, was said to hold in the Kochi Indian Premier League cricket team.

Later on, speaking in his constituency, Varanasi, for the first time after taking office as prime minster, Modi made an odd appeal, seeming to support dowry: “When a daughter is born, plant a tree. Twenty years later, you can sell five trees for her wedding”.

The most damaging indictment of the current prime minister’s views on women came with the stalking scandal of 2013. The Gujarat government was accused of illegally following a woman, a charge that the BJP accepted with a bizarre explanation: the woman's father asked Modi to do it. As Lakshmi Chaudhry wrote in FirstPost, behind this “shameful” defence was a “patriarchichal assumption that men 'possess' women, much like property, and therefore have the right to safeguard the same by any means necessary.”