Delhi gang rape case: ‘she deserved it’ is not a good argument
The gang rape of a 23-year-old woman and the beating of her male friend on a moving bus in New Delhi Sunday night has produced debates about women’s rights in India and about whether the death penalty — or castration — are suitable remedies for the situation. It has not prompted, from what I can see, any speculation that the woman got what she deserved because she was dressed like a slut… until today.
For anyone who has missed the story, here’s what has happened so far, according to multiple media reports: the woman and her friend boarded the bus. They thought it was operating on a public route, but the driver and the men on board apparently were out for a joyride instead. They raped the woman, beat the pair with an iron rod, and threw them out of the bus and left them to die on the street. Police have arrested some of the men, politicians are in high dudgeon, and the woman is in the hospital. She suffered damage not only to her reproductive system, but to her intestines.
There is plenty of speculation about what it is about men’s attitude toward women in India, as well as women’s place in society there, that could produce a situation like this. One thing’s for sure, it’s not uncommon. And if you’re looking for the other view, rightly discredited in most countries, you can find it on Twitter. Many Indians reacted with horror and anger to these Tweets from @shivendraINDIA, who calls himself an assistant review officer in the Allahabad High Court (he is listed here with 342 others):
- @saritatanwar why that gal was enjoying with her boyfriend? is it indian culture?
- girl,who was raped in delhi, shud not have followed western culture
- @maheepkapoor. sorry but I think that delhi gals r too modern so that delhi is becoming rape capital
In other words (and this is only my interpretation), nice girls don’t go out at night with men and get on city buses. They also should not fall pray to the West with its skimpy clothing, loose morals, premarital sex or other choices that women are allowed to decide for themselves in most countries. India, with its stated goal of equality for everyone, is supposed to be one of those places. Though it’s not a revolutionary thought, there is no excuse for raping a woman or a man, and then beating them almost to death. “She deserved it,” “she’s a whore” and “she asked for it” are not plausible explanations. I don’t mean to sound preachy, which is how I might sound to many American readers. But in India, where women on the street are routinely groped and leered at, these ideas evidently remain in circulation.
I asked @shivendraINDIA, whose name apparently is Shivendra Singh, what he does in the Allahabad High Court. I also asked him about his views on the woman in this incident. I don’t know what an assistant review officer does. I also wonder whether the court handles rape cases. He has not responded to my public inquiries on Twitter.
What I have never been able to figure out is why the conservative disapproval of these women must transform itself into a desire to attack and conquer through violence, particularly sexual violence. More mysterious to me is the reaction of @shivendraINDIA to this woman. Consider his tweets to an account in the name of Canadian ex-porn actress Sunny Leone (who is of Indian origin):
- @SunnyLeone – hi, i m ur big fan n i m eager to meet with u. when r u visiting to india? plz do reply.
- @SunnyLeone – what an awesome body u got! u r really a most attractive porn star in the industry.i m ur big fan
- @SunnyLeone – where r u? i m waiting for ur reply, ur reply will be a pleasure movement for me
(PS: an interaction with the bikini-clad Poonam Pandey takes a different turn…
“ur family does not object u for ur obscene appearenc?”
And when Pandey tweets: “I’m not really funny, I just earn my followers the old fashioned way: hand jobs,” Shivendra responds: @ipoonampandey hand job means?)
UPDATE: @ShivendraINDIA on Dec. 23 asked that I remove this post or at least remove his occupation and designation. “I never said that she deserved it. plz dont spoil the things. and plz remove that blog.” To be clear, the views that he wrote, as he said, are his personal views and not those of his position. He did not use the words “she deserved it.”