Indian politicians are beginning to get something of a reputation for shooting themselves in the foot, at least where sensitivity is concerned. From denying rape culture to blaming certain kinds of foods for crimes as heinous as rapes, India’s politicians/public figures have reached lows never reached before.
Hilarious and ridiculous as some of these statements may sound, they pose a real threat because they come from people in power, who are in the position to abuse said power. What we must remember is that rape culture doesn’t just appear out of thin air, it has to be created. We voted them into the positions they now enjoy, to the position from which they now lead (sort of). We created a system where they can say the things they do say, and get away with it. We are responsible and we must hold them accountable.
Following are some of the reasons they have given for why violence against women occurs in India:
1. Chowmein: According to Jitendar Chhatar, a khap panchayat leader in Haryana, consuming chowmein causes “hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts” (assault, violence against women etc.). Of course, he went on to blame a whole lot of fast food for causing rape, from burgers to pizzas, because obviously we are what we eat, right? We can’t digest this.
2. Jeans: Ah, the blame-Western-culture meets the blame-clothing-choices argument. These pesky jeans, symbolic of Western culture, are totally to blame. At least according to another khap panchayat leader, Ranvir Singh, who went on to say, “We should stop our girls from wearing jeans.” He’s not the only one either. Hindu religious leader, Nischalananda Saraswati, blames Western fashion for crossing the “thin line of culture and values”. Because in India, our values are in our pants. Clearly.
3. Condoms: Yes, CONDOMS. Or to be more accurate, condom advertisements. According to CPI National Secretary, Atul Kumar Anjan, a condom ad featuring Sunny Leone will “lead to a rise in rape incidents.” It was unclear whether he meant the presence of Sunny Leone or the fact that she was advertising condoms. Considering the fact that he said that such ads would, “develop a sexually infected mindset and ruin sensibilities.”, it’s probably both. Also, nice going Anjan, love how you completely missed the whole point of promoting condoms, which is to encourage safe sex.
4. Mobile phones: This modernism thing just doesn’t seem to sit right with so many of our esteemed leaders. Not to mention technology. Binay Bihari blamed mobile phones for giving people easy access to “obscene songs which pollute their minds.”And of course, women are totally at fault for using mobile phones to begin with. Rajpal Singh Saini, former state minister of UP, blamed mobile phones for “distracting” women, going on to ask, “Why do women need mobile phones? Our mothers, sisters and wives did not have mobile phones but they did not die because of it. If they could survive without mobile phones, why can’t women now?” Because, sir, passenger pigeons are extinct.
5. Women: But we all know who the root cause is, don’t we? Obviously the women themselves! What with all the ‘provocative clothing’ – “Women display their bodies and indulge in various obscene activities.” – Vibha Rao, Chattisgarh State Woman Commision. And going out ‘openly’ with men (“What is the need for roaming at night with men who are not relatives?” – Abu Azmi, Samajwadi Party leader); And for not appealing to her rapists ‘brotherly’ feelings (“She should have called the culprits ‘brothers’ and begged before them to stop.” – Asaram Bapu). Basically for daring to step out of the house at all. Because if you step out, you called for it, dear women. Which also negates the whole lot of violence which happens inside homes.
For such public figures, the victim or the survivor is the problem. So let’s blame everything but the perpetrators themselves for their actions. Let’s forget that India is considered one of the worst places on earth for a woman to live in. Let us also avoid the fact that a rape occurs every 20 minutes in India. And let us definitely ignore the huge problem that it is still legal for a husband to rape his wife in our country. Because, “tradition”.
Four years after the December 2012 rape case, where thousands took to the streets to protest against the gang rape of a young woman and countless others that go unreported, if our politicians still say “boys will be boys” then what has changed? Will it ever change?We can do better. We must do better.