Elected representatives who go on record to dehumanise a survivor are scarier than the characters of horror movies. Men in powerful positions get away due their influence and false “god” image. People use the symbols and flags to rally behind him. Elected representatives who go on record to dehumanize a survivor.
Last week, a group of nuns protested against the delay in the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who’s facing the allegations of serial rape of a nun. Even after 70 days of lodging the complaint, the police hasn’t booked the accused bishop due to lack of evidence. Other nuns have also accused the bishop of using his position to harass them sexually. In spite of facing intimidation and threats, these nuns have expressed their solidarity by staging protests. Consequently, Kerala high court has asked the police to submit a report on the action taken on the issue.
Now, politics and religion often form a great shield for perpetrators. We are living in a society where a rape accused is elected as a women’s rights advocate and is probably given a clean chit due to the same. Sexual assault and harassment is and should be seen as a serious offence due to the intense social, cultural and psychological pain the survivor has to endure. Last year, a priest was arrested for raping and impregnating a teenage girl. Several sections including Sunday Shalom magazine slut-shamed the survivor for not resisting and making the priest feel aroused. Again on July 2017, a Kerala priest was arrested for sexually abusing two minor boys. The emerging trend is very similar to the scenarios shown in the movie, Spotlight. Despite repeated instance of such sexual harassment, the victims face several insensitive and derogatory remarks in the form of victim-blaming and slut-shaming,
Recently, Kerala Janapaksham leader P C George slut-shamed the nun, who accused the bishop of serial rape, and called her a “prostitute”.
According to News18 report, George said, “I am not saying that the Bishop hasn’t done any wrong, but when you weigh his character against that of this nun, it is evident she is not above reproach. She says she was abused 13 times. How is it possible that she did not have any complaint the first 12 times and it only became rape the 13th time?”
George is infamous for his outbursts and explicit swearing. This is not the first time the elected representative has expressed insensitivity towards the rape survivor. Last year, he made derogatory remarks on a Malayalam actress, who was sexually harassed in a moving vehicle. The actress later wrote an open letter to the chief minister of Kerala, calling his attention to Geroge’s remarks. However, the MLA stood by his words and said that he ‘isn’t wary of such letters’. Last year, he targetted the father of a B.Com student who went missing and said that the father must be investigated.
National Commission of women, send George a notice for his remarks against the nun. True to is nature, he once again furthered misogynist remarks. During a news debate at Republic TV, the MLA not only refused to apologize, but also denied taking responsibility and stand down.
George’s words hurt the nun survivor, and she was forced to cancel the press meet. However, she wrote a seven-page letter to The Apostolic Nuncio of India, Giambattista Diquattro – an Ambassador to the Pope.
“Though Bishop Franco had sexually abused me several times, I could not reveal the full story to my Superior General or to her Councilors. I only told them repeatedly that the Bishop is taking many disciplinary actions through them just because I resisted to lie down with him. As they failed to understand even the seriousness of these words, I could not tell them more than this. And I had the fear that Bishop Franco may harm me with the support of my superiors (sic),” she writes in her letter.
When several women come forward with their stories of abuse and intimidation, then the authorities cannot turn a blind eye.
I think it is high time we collectively stop defending politicians who indulge in sexism, racism, casteism, and misogyny, and possess a notion that they could get away with it. We could write an entire book if we look at the history of misogynist comments made by MPs and MLAs against rape survivors. Once, SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav blamed Bangalore mass molestation on Western influence and girls being with boys. He also commented that “boys will be boys”. There are numerous instances where survivors have been blamed and shamed for the time they choose to go out, choice of clothes, makeup, religion, for her relationship with the abuser, etc.
The authorities shouldn’t take such loose, and irresponsible comments lightly, especially when they refuse to apologise or take responsibility for the same. Our taxes pay their salary, and their job is to be with people and not against them.
Rape is not just about sex, but about power and intimidation. It reduces the victims to their worst nightmare. We should stand with them. At the same time, now that several incidents are recorded where minor girls and boys are involved, proper regulation of the institution must take place.
And to those who don’t want to stand with them, fine. The least you could do is show some amount of sensitivity and ask the right questions at the right time. Victim-blaming and slut-shaming hurts and often haunts.