Men rape only when provoked by women like YOU!
Having heard this so many times, sadly the women of India believe this is true.
In December 2013, the editor-in-chief of India’s Tehelka magazine was accused of sexually assaulting a junior colleague twice in a hotel elevator during a conference in Goa. Until this incident, Tehelka was one of the most respected magazines, making headlines for path- breaking and courageous journalism that reported real stories and exposed scams in India.
But this incident exposed Tehelka. It brought to light the double standards of some urban, educated elites working for the magazine. Tehelka’s female managing editor, well known for her feminist stance, did not encourage the journalist to report the matter to the police. She subsequently was accused of a cover-up and was forced to resign under fire from the media.
“Lapse of judgment”, “something ostensibly playful gone so horribly wrong” “were phrases used in the apology letter written by the accused to his managing editor and the victim.
Another high profile case of sexual harassment that surfaced last year was that of a law intern who was sexually molested by a senior Supreme Court Judge who was also a member of a state Human Rights Commission. In his defense he said: “Allegations were made by the intern 11 months after the incident. I never abused my power. She could have left the room if she was feeling unwell. No person can be forced to drink wine if the person doesn’t want to.” (Source: Interview to CNN IBN http://ibnlive.in.com/news/sexual-harassment-case-justice-ganguly-blames-wb-government-sc-panel/444098-3.html)
To show just how pervasive is the sentiment, more recently, I read the news of a woman politician and a member of a Women’s Commission who echoed a similar view. At a women’s event, she questioned why the Delhi Gang Rape victim was out at night. She added that a woman’s attire and behavior are prerequisites to rape. (quote from her here)
A media honcho, Supreme Court judge and a woman politician in different ways each imply that rape could simply amount to a lapse of judgment and a woman should bear responsibility in terms of the hours she keeps and the clothes she wears. In other words, she is not simply the victim of a violent crime but possibly responsible for the act itself.
Post the Delhi Gang Rape, there seems to be more of a consensus that rape is a terrible crime but is that enough to protect our women and children? The statements related above worry me since I clearly don’t hear one voice on “Why women are raped in India?”
While we criticize Khap Panchayats in Haryana or Tribal councils in West Bengal for being backward in their mindsets, we tend to forget that there are many among the “educated elite” in this country who have a similar outlook. They might not be as vociferous in their opinions but the above examples clearly show that the burden of proof is shifted to the victim.
Rape – of a woman, man or a child involves abuse of power and position. It involves objectifying the person, force and coercion. Rape is not consensual, it can never be. We tend to miss the crux of this issue by focusing on the unnecessary details; sometimes we do it to divert our attention from the bitter truth. Women are conditioned to believe that by stepping out of line, they could bring rape upon themselves.
We must condemn every act of violence against women and children and we must reach a consensus on assigning responsibility to the perpetrator and not the victim. We can recruit more policemen for safety, we can sell pepper sprays and teach our girls karate – but can we stop judging our girls and women?