An Open Letter To Kirron Kher: I Feel Let Down!

Posted by Karthika S Nair in Society, Staff Picks
December 9, 2017

Dear ma’am,

As a citizen of India, as a woman, I expect the Ministers of Parliament to take some time and speak on behalf of women who have faced harassment and sex-based atrocities.

Sex-based crimes are the ultimate tools to express power and control. But, as a woman, I guarantee you that harassment is not limited to the inside of a vehicle with four men. I expected you to know the same. But here is the thing, when you blamed the 22-year-old Chandigarh rape survivor, you let me down!

In 2015, I watched you defended the documentary India’s daughter which covered the brutal December 16, 2012, gangrape of Jyothi Singh Pandey, who was met with a wave of victim blaming and slut shaming from various sections. The most brutal blame was from one of her rapists who merely echoed what elders and politicians had said over the years.

While doing so, you had viciously and passionately spoken about the atrocities faced by women and the solution for the same. I lauded when you said, “Iski izzat karna ek ‘mindset’ ki baat hoti hai” and when you suggested that programmes should be held at schools to educate boys on how to respect women. Women have been screaming on top of their lungs that we want autonomy, the right to exercise the rights that are given to us as citizens of this democratic nation, and we were so happy that you were supporting us in this.

To step outside the house, to work, to travel – these rights are denied to women in the name of safety, while a potential perpetrator gets to do whatever he wants after 6:00 pm. You have expressed that and became a champion before my eyes. I don’t know if the government took the necessary steps, but your voice mattered then.

Exactly two years after this, on an important platform, you have joined the party that held women accountable for the atrocities. When something as horrendous as gangrape happens, the survivor needs to be rehabilitated, as opposed to the salt water poured on their wounds in the form of harsh words, furthering the trauma and adding insult to the injury.

You have further clarified saying “only in the context of certain precautions that women should take and that it was not intended to blame the victim or shame her.” Dear maám, no matter how many precautions women and girls take, the same number of Mukesh Singhs will feel entitled and blame their victim for what happened to her, these are words that are being echoed in the air at the time when boys as young as 15-year-olds commit such heinous crimes. And, I guarantee you that most of the harassment and sex-based crimes, done to women, is by those who are known to them.

Also, I have shared a taxi with both men and women. I know a lot of women who did the same and men who were very nice and protective. We do not want to brand every man we meet as a potential rapist, boys and men around me have echoed the same sentiments. Also, this is the time when women are coming out with their horror stories of sexual harassment through campaigns such as #MeToo and #IWillGoOut.

A prominent Malayalam actress was kidnapped and molested in a moving vehicle, and the patriarchal film industry’s solution was to prevent ‘night schedules’ for women as opposed to regulating the “Pulsar Sunnis” in their unit. The actress, however, chose to fight back, despite all the blame game that might come her way. Women are reluctant to report these crimes for the same reason.

We have seen MPs and MLAs indulging in trying to control a women’s autonomy. The industry you worked in has introduced such scenarios over the years. This year began with the controversial depiction of rape in “Kaabil“, and the movie “Maatr” where the character played by Raveena Tandon takes a different route, resulting in her gangrape.

Army men have historically invaded and raped women. Sex-based crimes are proven as an act of power and dominance. Crores are invested in a film which glorifies the act of Jauhar and self-immolation by women, or in simple words, where women have to kill themselves to avoid rape. Bollywood has been holding women accountable with objectification to further the same, over the years.

Someone in your position could have used their voice better, but instead, you furthered the notion that women should be in their confined spaces of safety which are non-existent. Atrocities which happen are out of control but what could be done is a proper delivery of justice and rehabilitation. People can change for the better.

What you said is nothing short of the same retrograde mindset that we are tired of confronting. That is really disappointing maám. You have let the survivor down, and as someone who lauded your voice, you have let me down.