A woman in her early twenties was gang-raped in Sector 53 of Chandigarh on 17 November. The woman, who hailed from Dehradun, had taken an auto rickshaw in the evening, at around 7:45 pm after her stenography class. The auto she boarded already had three male passengers.
The three accused were produced in court on 29 November.
The court remanded the accused – Mohammad Irfan (29), Mohammad Garib (21) and Kismat Ali alias Poppu (21) – in two days’ police custody. The three would be produced in court again on 1 December.
Like every other time, news of this gang rape had also created a buzz in the media. Everyone was shocked and started questioning about the law and order in an urbane city like that of Chandigarh.
The rape survivor not wise enough; so says MP
Amidst all of this, BJP MP from Chandigarh, Kirron Kher, commented on the gang-rape incident.
She said, “Bachi ki samajhdaari ko bhi main thoda sa kehna chahti hun… saari bachiyon ko.. ki already jab koi teen aadmi baithe hue hain uske andar… to aapko usme bethna nahi chadhna chaeye tha….I am saying this to protect the girls…..,” (The girl should have been more careful while taking the auto…she should not have taken the auto when she saw that already three men were sitting inside it) [Emphasis: author’s own].
Kher claimed that she was protective when she made the statement – the only thing she had in mind was the well-being of the ‘girl’. (Mind you, not a woman). Interestingly, no one had a problem with the statement. Here was one Member of Parliament implicitly victim blaming, under the garb of being protective and no one thought it was problematic. Kher, is blissfully unaware why her statement was wrong, she further justified it.
Lanaat hai unpar jinhone iska rajneeti karan karne ki koshish ki hai, aapke ghar mein bhi bachhiyan hai, aapko bhi meri tarah constructive baat karni chahiye, destructive nahi: Kirron Kher,BJP MP pic.twitter.com/z7fEMrpunW
— ANI (@ANI) November 30, 2017
In fact, people have come out in support of Kher urging everyone not to play ‘politics’ with well-meaning statements. The Logical Indian had posted on the Facebook about the comment made by Kher and how it is completely wrong to make statements like this, especially by a responsible Member of Parliament. We clearly failed to make our community readers understand the problem in Kher’s comment as our comment section was replete with messages supporting it. Hence we felt the need to write an article on the same.
Again, a politician puts the blame on a rape victim for not taking 'enough security measures' Member of Parliament…
But the personal is ALWAYS political, Mrs Kher
Now, dear community members, we have arrived at the juncture where we would be addressing the real problem. No, the real problem is not that violence against women is increasing in geometric progression.
The real issue is that we don’t realise violence against women is resultant of the patriarchal values and the misogynist notions that have been embedded in the society for so long and have now become normalised.
The real issue is that we still think women should not go out at night, alone or with friends, that they are expected to be wear ‘decent’ clothes so that the ‘beast’ inside ‘men’ do not get aroused, that they are not supposed to enjoy themselves to the extent that men mistake them for ‘women of loose morals’.
The real issue is that we do not stop ourselves from blaming a gang rape survivor for not being careful, implying that an incident of sexual assault could have been avoided if the woman in question would have been extra careful. And the sad part of this incident is that, an MP is normalising and propagating the fact that it is the victim who needs to bear the responsibility of the attack.
It is essential to understand that the onus of any sexual assault lies on the perpetrator.
The fact that we are asking the woman to be more cautious only reflects the biased nature of our socialisation where we are taught that women are the weaker section, the damsels in distress who need to be rescued and who cannot take decisions for themselves.
It also hints at the fact that the gatekeepers of law and order are unable to fulfill their duties and hence are washing their hands off by putting the blame on a twenty-year old who chose to ride home in an auto that already had three men.
“Is it not our responsibility to lock our doors to avoid burglary?”
To answer to one of the oft-made analogies, we say, yes, it is. But no, this is not the right kind of analogy to understand the power hierarchy and patriarchal mindset that goes behind incidents of sexual harassment and assaults.
While we cannot go back to the idyllic Pataliputra of Chandragupta Maurya where people could leave their doors unlocked without any fear of thieves, we surely can try to understand that instilling fear in the minds of women is not the answer.
Carrying pepper-sprays, sharp objects, refraining from making late-night plans for fear of being groped even in well-lighted urban areas, celebrating New Year locked up in rooms (meant for the party lovers) because of fear of mass molestation is NOT what we should have in mind for our women. They are not meant to be afraid and to shy away from public spaces which have been predominantly occupied by men for ages unknown.
A responsible government and it’s representatives should work towards making a better and safer world for everyone and not in yielding to embedded societal norms that end up blaming the victim and locking up women under the purdahs of inhibition and fear.
An MP propagating the idea that women should be cautious while taking a ride implies that she is absolving herself from the responsibility of providing security. It also means that government is incapable to do that; so women should just be in their homes. Interestingly, if women start listening to all the advice given by politicians to ‘avoid rape’, they should even stop existing.
We so often, do not waste any time in eulogising women who have achieved great feats but what about the lives of thousands of ‘ordinary’ women who are being asked to be ‘cautious’ about their male co-passengers?
When will the common man and its representatives (with backgrounds in theatre et al.) understand that reclamation of public spaces by women and not advices that take us back in time is the need of the hour?