Short skirts, bad stars and chow mein: why India’s women get raped
If you thought the Delhi gang rape would cause a serious debate on women’s rights in India, you’d be half right. Let’s look at the other half: last December’s brutal incident seems to have put a spell on India’s politicians, holy men and otherwise educated people.
From suggesting that the rape victim should have called her rapists “brother” to blaming her stars, plenty of reasons cited for the crime lay the blame on the women whom men brutalise, or portray women in ways that reveal our skewed attitude toward women and their place in our society. When given an opportunity to figure out ways to improve the education and behaviour of men, and thus try to reduce the number of rapes that occur in India, many people revert to the more traditional method: limit the rights of women.
This is a partial list compiled by me and Robert MacMillan. Please suggest more. We’ll keep updating this as long as we have to…
UPDATE: BJP Minister from Madhya Pradesh, Babulal Gaur, commenting on a controversy regarding dresses, said “foreign culture” is not good for India. “Women in foreign countries wear jeans and T-shirts, dance with other men and even drink liquor, but that is their culture. It’s good for them, but not for India, where only our traditions and culture are OK.” In what looks like an attempt to hedge his bets, he also said, “Let women consider what is good and bad for them.” (Business Standard)
Shankaracharya of Puri Swami Nischalananda Saraswati declared western influence responsible for destroying the values and principles of the country. “There is need to change this. Before Independence we were able to maintain our culture and values but in the last 65 years we have lost a great part of it. Such horrific incidents don’t happen all of a sudden. They happen when the thin line of culture and values are crossed in the name of civilization and development.” (Times of India)
Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh: “Countries with sex education in their curriculum only have an increased number of crimes against women.” (Indian Express)
The Anjuman Muslim Panchayat in Salumbur town in Rajasthan has decreed that girls should not use mobile phones outside their own homes or dance at weddings so that “they do not get involved with boys.” Girls cannot dance on the street during wedding processions because that would mean objectifying women, Habiburrehman, secretary of the community panchayat was quoted as saying by PTI. The panchayat has also “warned young people against love marriages” and imposed a fine of 51,000 rupees (approximately $930) on families whose members elope and marry “against traditional social arrangements.” (NDTV)
BJP MP Ramesh Bais told reporters referring to the rape case involving minor inmates of a government-run residential school: “The rape of grown-up girls and women might be understandable, but if someone does this to an infant, it is a heinous crime and the offenders should be hanged.” (Firstpost)
Manohar Lal Sharma, a lawyer who represents three of the accused, speaking to Bloomberg in an interview: Sharma said the male companion of the murdered 23-year-old was “wholly responsible” for the incident as the unmarried couple should not have been on the streets at night. “Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady,” Sharma said in an interview at a cafe outside the Supreme Court.
“Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect.” … Sharma said the man and woman should not have been traveling back late in the evening and making their journey on public transport. He also said it was the man’s responsibility to protect the woman and that he had failed in his duty. “The man has broken the faith of the woman,” Sharma said yesterday. “If a man fails to protect the woman, or she has a single doubt about his failure to protect her, the woman will never go with that man.”
Asaram Bapu, self-proclaimed “godman”: “She should have taken God’s name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said ‘I consider you as my brother’, and should have said to the other two ‘Brother I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother.’” In other words, if she’s begged for forgiveness and cited the fraternity of man and called to God for help, all would have been well. Bapu’s spokesperson later responded to criticism of his statements by saying that women who get raped bear a fraction of the responsibility. (Hindustan Times)
Puducherry Education Minister T Thiagarajan, on making girls in the tropical southern city wear overcoats so men won’t be driven mad with lust: “The meeting resolved to introduce overcoats for girl students, operate special buses for them and ban mobile phones in schools. Our government is committed to ensuring safety of women, particularly girl students.” (Hindustan Times)
Rajasthan BJP lawmaker Banwari Lal Singhal: A BJP MLA in Rajasthan has demanded a ban on skirts as uniform in schools to keep girls away from “men’s lustful gazes”. Alwar (Urban) legislator Banwari Lal Singhal has written a letter to the state chief secretary C K Mathew, demanding that skirts should be replaced by trousers or salwar-kameez. “The intention of this demand is to keep girl students away from men’s lustful gazes and for their comfort in hot and cold weather conditions,” Singhal told PTI. (Outlook)
Abu Asim Azmi, state president of the Maharashtra Samajwadi Party: “If you keep petrol and fire together then it will burn. There should be a law to ensure that there should be no ‘nangapan’ (nudity). Those who wear less clothes should also be banned.” Also, paraphrased: fashion and nudity are responsible for the current situation in India. And in rural India, “girls don’t go searching out for boyfriend(s).” It goes on: “I support death penalty for the Delhi rapists but there should also be a law that women should not wear less clothes and roam around with boys who are not their relatives. What is the need for roaming at night with men who are not relatives? This should be stopped.” To be fair, here is the response from his son Farhan: “We are a cosmopolitan family, I have five sisters, they are educated, they drive and roam around in cars, we have always respected girls as equals and is that how it should be.” (India Today)
Congress MP Abhijit Mukherjee (son of President Pranab Mukherjee): “Those who claim to be students – I can see many beautiful women among them – highly dented-painted [sic] – they’re giving interviews on TV, they’ve brought their children to show them the scenes. I have grave doubts whether they’re students, because women of that age are generally not students.” (Note: by dented-painted, we generally understand this to mean that they’re either a) a bit older and therefore need to be made up to look attractive, b) they’re like a car after a repair job, or c) they’re generally made up, and somehow not serious about their protests against the climate of rape and lack of prosecution in India. (Financial Express)
Madhya Pradesh BJP leader Vijayvargiya: “Only when Sitaji crossed the Lakshman rekha, she was kidnapped by Ravan. If Sitaji (woman) crosses the Lakshman rekha, then “Sitaharan” (crime against them) is bound to take place as Ravans are out there.” Here’s the background on that, along with one hell of a deconstruction of the plight of women “alone in the forest,” by Nilanjana Roy. Vijayvargiya withdrew his remark under pressure, by the way. (Deccan Chronicle)
Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar: “Harm can come on a person if the stars are in adverse positions … We have no answer to this, only an astrologer can predict.” (India Today)
Mohan Bhagwat (chief of right-wing organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh): “A husband and wife are involved in a contract under which the husband has said that you should take care of my house and I will take care of all your needs. I will keep you safe. So, the husband follows the contract terms. Till the time, the wife follows the contract, the husband stays with her, if the wife violates the contract, he can disown her.” (NDTV)
More Bhagwat: Villages that embody the spirit of “Bharat” rather than “India” don’t produce a culture of rape. That’s something that you see in areas in which western culture’s poison has seeped into Indian souls, most notably in urban areas.
Jitendar Chattar (leader of a Khap Panchayat): “To my understanding, consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents. Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee: “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.” (CNN-IBN)
Dr. Anita Shukla, scientist at the Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya: “When a group of men intend to rape, they will do it. The victim should save herself for bringing the perpetrators to book … Had the girl simply surrendered (and not resisted) when surrounded by six men, she would not have lost her intestine. Why was she out with her boyfriend at 10 pm?” (Indian Express)
Jamaat-E-Islami Hind (Islamist organisation). Statement released by Secretary General Nusrat Ali: “Co-education should be abolished and proper education facilities meant exclusively for women should be available at all level of education. Educational institutions should prescribe sober and dignified dress for girls.” (Times of India)
MP Rajpal Saini: “Why do housewives and school going girls need mobiles? It encourages them to make futile small talk and get connected with people outside their homes.” (Reuters, citing others)
More than half the people you know: According to a survey by Sakshi, an NGO active in gender issues, 74% of judges surveyed a decade ago believed that “preservation of the family” should be a principal concern for women even in the event of violence in the home. And 51% believed that women who stay with abusive husbands are “partly to blame” for their plight. Some 68% felt that “provocative attire was an invitation to rape” and 55% felt that the “moral character of the victim” was relevant. (via Rupa Subramanya and The Wall Street Journal)