Being public figures and at highly placed positions, these people should understand that such absurd rape comments add insult to women injury.
The cruelty and regularity of rapes in India have frequently made international headlines and tarnished India’s reputation. While common people hit to the streets to protest these savage crimes and demand justice, it is appalling to note that the people who lead them often have the most horrible notions about rape, not only in India, but across the world.
There have been many awful statements made by public figures about rape and the latest in the list was made by an advocate in New Zealand who told a rape victim that she should have “closed her legs” if she wanted to avoid having sex. Defence lawyer Keith Jefferies gave the comments when summing up at the trial of his client, a nightclub bouncer who was convicted of rape.
According to news reports, the 20-year-old woman was drunk when the bouncer, George Pule, approached her and told her that he could get her into a nightclub where her friends were socialising. Instead he led her down an alley and raped her.
Jefferies said the victim did not struggle or cry out. “All she would have had to do was to close her legs… it’s as simple as that. Why didn’t she do that? The reason she didn’t do that was because the sex was consensual, as easy as that,” said Jefferies in his closing arguments.
The controversy came a day after worldwide media picked up India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Ranjit Sinha’s analogy over illegal betting that “if you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it”. Later Sinha claimed that the statement was ‘inadvertently’ made.
Mindset exposed of politicians and public figures in India
– Indian spiritual leader and alleged rapist Asaram Bapu said on the Delhi gang rape and murder, “Only 5-6 people are not the culprits. The victim is as guilty as her rapists… She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop… This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don’t think so. Had she recited the Saraswati mantra, she would not have boarded any bus after watching a movie with her boyfriend.”
– Vibha Rao, chairperson of Chhattisgarh state woman commission said “Women display their bodies and indulge in various obscene activities. Women are unaware of the kind of message (their actions) generate.” According to her, other causes for sexual crimes against women are ignorance of Hindu epics that educate values, propagation of the internet, and the collapse of joint families – “Joint family system is disintegrating and hence cultural values are not inculcated in kids.”
– Referring to rise in incidences of rapes in India, politician Abu Azmi said “Women should not venture out with men who are not relatives. What is the need for roaming at night with men who are not relatives? This should be stopped. Such incidents (like the Delhi gang-rape) happen due to influence of western culture. In the urban culture, where women are out with their boyfriends till late in the night skimpily dressed, rape instances are bound to be higher than in rural areas where women are mostly confined to their homes and are dressed properly.”
– Reacting on why rapes in India are increasing, leader of VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad), Ashok Singhal said “This western model is alarming. What is happening is we have imbibed the US. We have lost all the values we had in cities. Before the British arrived to rule India, Virginity was preserved. But the purity has been totally disturbed…we are losing it.”
– After the Delhi gang rape, chief of Hindu nationalist group RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), Mohan Bhagwat said “Crimes against women happening in urban I’ndia are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such crimes won’t happen in Bharat or the rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang rape or sex crimes. Where ‘Bharat’ becomes ‘India’ with the influence of western culture, these type of incidents happen. The actual Indian values and culture should be established at every stratum of society where women are treated as ‘mother.”
– A Khap leaders from a village in Haryana, Sube Singh Samain said “If consensual sex with a 16-yealr-old is not rape, why can’t girls be married at 16? I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and don’t need to go elsewhere. This way, rapes will not occur.”
Another khap leader, Jitender Chhatar said “Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance, evoking an urge to indulge in acts such as rape and sex. You also know the impact of chowmein, which is a spicy food, on our body. Hence, our elders too advised to eat light and nutritious food.”
Khap leader, Ranvir Singh said “We should pay more attention to where our girls are going. A mobile phone is like a disease. It should be banned. We should stop our girls from wearing jeans.”
– Referring to women taking to the streets to protest against the Delhi gang rape politician and son of Indian President, Abhijit Mukherjee said “This is almost like the Pink Revolution. These women who are protesting have no contact with ground reality. These pretty women, dented and painted, who come for protests are not students. I have seen them speak on television, usually women of this age are not students.”
– Indian politician Botsa Satyanarayana on the Delhi gang rape said “Just because the country attained independence at midnight, is it proper for women moving at midnight? That particular woman (the Delhi rape victim) should have applied her mind before boarding the private bus. Anyway, it was a small incident.”
– Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee said “Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded, but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options.”
– Police chief of Andhra Pradesh, Dinesh Reddy said “Now, wealth has increased, corporate styles have seeped into the villages bringing in liquor and other cosmopolitan cultures. These modern women are more vulnerable to rapes. When you are taking food which gives good josh, you tend to be more naughty as time passes. I am giving you down-to-earth facts. Rapes are not in the control of the police … Even the villagers from coastal Andhra are wearing salwar-kameez (as against traditional dress). All these things provoke.”
– Giving his own assessment of how the rising crime of rape can be controlled in India, Haryana’s former Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala discovered a shortcut solution. Reflecting the same mindset as that of many of the Khap leaders, Chautala said “Marry off girls early to prevent rape.”
– Short skirts appear to be an ugly thing for many. Trinamool Congress legislator, Chiranjeet Chakraborty said “One of the reasons behind the increase in incidents of eve-teasing is short dresses and short skirts worn by women. This in turn instigates young men.” Chakraborty is not the only one to blame the short skirt. Another BJP legislator in Rajasthan, Banwari Lal Singhal wrote to chief secretary, “Skirts should be prohibited keeping in view the rise of social crimes against women. The school should have pant-shirts or salwar suits as uniforms for girl students.”
Being public figures and at highly placed positions, these people should understand that such absurd rape comments add insult to women injury. Discussing this particular crime, one must always be mindful of the chances that the audience has people who are victims of sexual assault and rape. For this reason, it is inapt to re-traumatise victims by insensitively adding to the stress already upon them through slapdash use of words.
Society requires looking at the structural domination women suffer in our male-dominated and chauvinist society. Holing the victim responsible, or implying that they could have done something to prevent rape, is, honestly, ridiculous.
We need to understand that rape is a worldwide criminal occurrence; it also happens in countries where alcohol is prohibited and in places where women wear conservative clothes just as much as it happens in India. Women have to feel safe – despite of what they wear, or drink. These are not basis hold the victim at fault.