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The Ascetic among women

A while ago, there was a conference in New Delhi on Women in science (I think this one). It was inaugurated by the President of India. One man addressed the gathering, and said “I am surrounded by women, but I have no fear, since I am a Brahmachari.” While Brahmachari does mean an ascetic (in particular someone abstaining from sex), he is not really one, as he has a family and children. This was a pun on his own last name, a pun in very poor taste, as it indicated that he thought of women in terms only of their sexuality, even when they are present in the capacity of scientists.

He went on to say that (he thought) women did not succeed as scientists because they did not want to succeed, i.e. they did not have the same drive as men, not because of any discrimnation. In any civilised nation, such a comment would have people baying for his blood, and he would have had to apologise, and perhaps resign from his post.

In India, however, this man continues to head a major Science and Technology funding and awards agency of the Government, in charge of providing research grants to scientists. I have no idea if the Ayyadurai-Sardana report discusses problems faced by women scientists in CSIR labs. I hope somebody looks into that.

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