A Congress leader’s rape joke, which was made recently on a platform no less than a state assembly house, is the latest exhibit of how trivially issues of gender crime are seen in this country. Enough already! We cannot go on pretending like our elected leaders have honest ambitions of change or even concern when it comes to sexual assault and safety.
This is what the politician said. “When rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.” And then came an apology, which started like this. “If it hurts women’s sentiments…”
Rape jokes, unflinchingly, made in public. This is what our politicians have stooped down to.
On Thursday, before the State Assembly in the state of Karnataka, Congress Member KR Ramesh Kumar thought he was making a smart quip at the speaker trying to control the commotion when he said, “When rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.”
What should the reaction from the house have been to this below-the-belt, supposed joke? Rage? Condemnation? Shock? Stunned silence?
Instead it was laughter. Kumar’s statement evoked laughter from other Assembly leaders.
A day after this dystopian episode unfolded, Kumar, following massive backlash, issued an apology. Or something like it. “If it hurts women’s sentiments…” was how he began expressing regret over what he said. It was an off-the-cuff remark and his intention was not to trivialise rape issues, he wrote on Twitter, claiming he would choose his words “carefully” henceforth.
Suggested Reading: Lie Back And Enjoy: How Dare A Politician Talk Like That About Rape!
Making light of a crime as heinous and commonplace and, as yet unsolvable, like rape is inexcusable from a political representative who has been considered responsible enough to sit in a decision-making house of the country. And yet, it is happening in India without consequences.
So many hours have passed since Kumar said what he said and beyond condemnation for his words, his party has avoided taking stricter action against him. Other than feminist headlines from platforms like SheThePeople and social media watchers, nothing institutional has been done against him.
Do politicians make controversial statements because they believe the tide will pass and the public will forget about what happened? Is speaking such these reprehensible things indicative of the rot we have so easily permitted to take root in our political systems?
Did Kumar make his ‘rape joke‘ under the assurance that the spotlight will eventually shift to another politician caught in a foot-in-mouth situation?
If so, he may not be wrong. Every few months, when a rape happens in India, its leaders are promptly on their marks, ready to launch sexist ammo into the public.
“The girl and her friend must have gone to a deserted place,” said the Karnataka Home Minister when the Mysuru gangrape shook the nation. “They were on the beach the whole night, two boys and two girls,” said Goa’s Chief Minister after the horrific gangrape at Benaulim beach.
Suggested Reading: ‘Aawargi’ Will Increase: Samajwadi Party MP On Bill Raising Women’s Legal Marriage Age
On the same day that outrage is erupting for Kumar, Samajwadi Party’s Shafiqur Rahman Barq has claimed women’s “aawargi” (vagrancy, aimless wandering) will increase if their legal marriageable age is raised from 18 to 21. They will “move around” more, he said in earlier statements that he later attempted to withdraw.
This is the mentality of the men sitting in seats of power in our country. What exactly is being done to curb rape crimes or other gender violence? Are India’s women and girls safe – on streets, in their own homes, online – that leaders are finding it so effortlessly easy to talk about rape in contexts that are anything but somber? What policies are being tabled with urgency to act against the sexual assaults we read of every day in bold headlines?
Can India afford to have politicians who are desensitised to experiences as harrowing as rape crimes? Do the women of the country deserve this? Should survivors have to live with this?
Views expressed are the author’s own.