A few days back, in the wake of the Lakhimpur Kheri rape and murder case, BJP leader Alok Vats blamed access to cell phones for causing rapes. This was not the first time a politician has trivialised sexual violence. As if “boys will be boys” wasn’t enough, we have a league of absurd reasons to “blame” women for getting raped.
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), around 87 rape cases were reported each day in 2021 and nobody can surely say how many have gone unreported. The report also shows that there was a 13.2 percent increase in overall crimes against women in 2021. These are harrowing statistics and yet men in powerful positions have gone on to defend men and additionally blame survivors for being harmed.
Main cause of rape in India: It’s not what women wear or do
Back when I was in school, I remember the widespread outrage against a Khap Panchayat that blamed ‘eating chowmein’ for causing hormonal imbalances and rapes. The question here is not to verify if this is correct but to ask how low politicians can stoop to justify violence against women and protect men from blame. Sometimes it’s clothing, other times it’s the hour she comes back home at, anything but the perpetrators.
Not too long ago, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat made a comment blaming ripped-jeans for eroding the ‘sanskaar’ of Indian society and causing rapes and substance abuse. In December last year, Congress MLA Ramesh Kumar made a careless comment saying, “When rape is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it.” If this is the kind of comments people’s representatives make, one can only imagine how worse the rest of the society thinks and feels.
Suggested Reading: BJP Leader Blames Mobile Phones In Lakhimpur Kheri Rape-Murder Case
Having said that, it’s not only men who make such comments but older women too further this kind of thinking. Uttar Pradesh women’s commission member Meena Kumari earned a lot of flak last year for saying that parents shouldn’t give phones to their daughters. She went on to blame the rising crimes against women on the careless attitude of parents, especially mothers. Similar thoughts were expressed by National Commission for Women’s member Chandramukhi Devi, who, while speaking on the horrific gangrape and death of a 50-yrar-old woman in Badaun, said that the incident would not have occurred if the deceased had not stepped out of her house alone.
Overall, 4,28,278 cases of ‘crimes against women’ were lodged across the country in 2021 and yet we are living in denial of the actual cause of the violence. Until the collective consciousness of the nation is pulled out from the clutches of misogyny, we honestly cannot expect the crimes against women to decline.
All hope is not lost though, young women and men have taken to social media and the streets to protest against such thinking. Hashtags like #GreetingsFromMyNakedKnees and campaigns like ‘Name the Agent’ on Twitter are baby steps in this direction. Predatory behaviour needs to be put on centre stage and strongly condemned, the backward mindsets need to be strongly challenged and an educative process needs to put into force at institutions to counter the reprehensive commentary of the people in power.
Teach your sons to stop ogling and passing lewd comments at the women who cross the streets, question your relatives when they say you should be covered from tip to toe while stepping out; challenge the stares of neighbourhood aunties when you return home after dark. Let’s put the men in a spot and teach them to respect women.
Views expressed are the author’s own.