4 February 2014 | Priyanka Bhargava | NEW DELHI
It has become a trend for them to make gender biased remarks and then be attacked for having spoken thus. The most recent comment blaming women for sexual crimes has come from the member of the Maharashtra State Women’s Commission. Without getting creative, she says women attract rape by dressing up and behaving provocatively.
The trend started not very long ago after a fatal sexual attack on a young girl generated a Herculean spasm. When a young paramedic was gang raped so brutally that she had to die a year ago, Delhi, and subsequently the whole world, erupted like a dormant volcano. They had stood many sexual attacks, and now enough was enough!
Apart from the kneejerk effect in the form of the Justice Verma Committee Report and hence a reformed law, the protest also started an incessant discussion which had speakers from across the board including our celeb fraternity. An open discussion led to an open reaction and those who made biased comments came under fire from all quarters. Previously, besides some faint noises by women’s rights groups, there would hardly be any reactions to gender-biased comments.
Numerous public figures and officials holding influential positions have spoken in the past year ever since the protests and none too becomingly. And they have attracted public fury.
The most recent comment came from Dr Asha Mirge, member of the Maharashtra State Women’s Commission. When a young participant at a two-day camp on ‘Developing Leadership Qualities among Young Girls’, asked her about what could be done to ensure safety of women, Mirge, rather than providing a fulfilling answer, blamed women for sexual crimes.
She said, “Woman’s clothes, her behaviour and her presence at inappropriate places are also responsible for sexual assault.” She went on to blame the victim for the 16 December 2012 gang rape incident, “Did ‘Nirbhaya’ (the name given to the victim by the media as the Indian law does not allow naming a rape victim in public) really have to go to watch a movie at 11 o’clock in the night with her boyfriend? Take the Shakti Mills gang rape case in Mumbai. Why did the victim go to such an isolated spot at dusk?”
Mirge is only the most recent, and hopefully the last one, to have spoken thus.
Earlier, disgraced godman, Asaram Bapu had said reacting to the December 16 incident, “Only 5-6 men are not the culprits. The girl (who got raped) 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.”
Then, Abhijit Mukherjee, son of none other than the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, had called the female protestors of December 16 incident “highly dented and painted.”
After the Tarun Tejpal sexual harassment case, Farooq Abdullah, National Conference chief and Union minister, said on national TV, “These days, I am afraid of talking to women. In fact, I don’t even want to keep a female secretary. God forbid, if there is a complaint against me and I end up in a jail.”
At one of the media debates, a Khap Panchayat, leader from Haryana, a state known for its hateful approach towards women, had spared the women, and we are grateful, and had blamed Chowmein for rapes! He had said, “To my understanding, consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents. Chow mein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts,” said Jitender Chhatar, a resident of Jind’s Chhatar village and a khap panchayat leader.
While the Khap panchayats of Haryana, are notorious for their regressive rules for women, a similar kangaroo court in a tribal village in West Bengal ‘ordered’ rape of a girl who had breached the tradition by having a love affair with a man of another community. She was gang raped by twelve men, who were her neighbours, and who, she told journalists gathered around her hospital bed, she used to call kaka (uncle) and dada (brother).
Then, a Muslim community panchayat in Rajasthan issued a diktat banning girls from using mobile phones and singing and dancing at weddings.
Mamata Banerjee’s chief ministership was was seen as a big step towards ensuring safety of girls in the state. But she shocked everybody when she dismissed rapes and sexual violence as opposition political party’s conspiracy to malign her government. She publicly protested that the media and women’s groups were being paid to malign her. There have been a series of sexual assault incidents in Kolkata, not to even mention other cities in her state, ever since she assumed office.
Sometime meanwhile, Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam was attacked by people and the media for telling BJP MP Smriti Irani on a live TV debate, “It’s just yesterday that you joined politics and today you have become a political analyst! Aap toh TV pe thumke lagati thi, aaj chunavi vishleshak ban gayi (you were shaking your booty on TV and now you have become a psephologist)!”
Later, lead vocalist of Euphoria music band, doctor-turned-singer, Palash Sen, made it to the target board when speaking at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, cultural fest, told the male students, “Don’t worry guys, you will find the best looking women when you leave this campus. Aur woh tumhare liye roti belengi (and they will roll rotis for you).”
These are just a few comments among a plethora. But such comments have exposed the anti-women mentalities, patriarchal mentalities prevalent in our society. Almost everybody who made these comments saw nothing wrong in it until she or he came under fire. That’s because these mindsets are so deeply embedded in our system that they are norm.
It has helped to bring these debates out in the open. Many who had wanted to know but never had the appropriate exposure, know about gender-bias now and how it adversely affects, not just women, but the society as a whole. We must hope that very soon we will hear none of these regressive remarks. But from what we were, we have come slightly far. Change is here. Let’s make it better!
If you, or a woman or women around you, are subject to domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other atrocities at home or anywhere else, here is what you can do.Know more