At a press conference today, the brand ambassador for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao mission, Amitabh Bachchan was asked his views about the heinous rapes that have shaken the country in the past month. But before I go onto what he had to say, let me jog your memory a bit, dear reader.

It is our blinkered attitude that has led us to this point today that every single day we have cases of sexual abuse

Back in September 2016, Amitabh Bachchan had a movie on the verge of release. Pink it was titled, rather subversively. Pink, after all, stood for all things girly and pretty, and vulnerable. The movie, with its rather strange shift from Mr Bachchan playing creepy stalker uncle in the first half to messiah of wronged women in the second half sought to be woke on patriarchal constructs and educate the Indian movie going public on the concept on consent. We’ve had debates on consent. Informed consent. Active consent. Enthusiastic consent. Misunderstood consent. And even ‘feeble consent,’ which we’ve had judgements delivered in rape cases on. Consent of course, feeble or otherwise, didn’t even play a part in some of the gruesome and horrific cases we’ve grappled with as a nation in the past month. Mr Bachchan even delivered a rather rousing speech on consent and female empowerment in the climax of the film, that drew much applause from the gallery.

In the run up to the release to Pink, in 2016, Mr Bachchan wrote a rather well publicised letter to his grand daughters, an empowering letter, a letter that told them to never rely on their surnames, to not worry about the log kya kahenge, to not worry about the length of their skirts, to not live in the shadow of other people’s judgement. It was a heartwarming letter indeed. It ticked off all the boxes. So what if it was part of the promotion of a film, and in its blinkered vision, completely negated the wonderful legacy of the mothers and grandmothers of these two lovely young girls, choosing to focus only the grandfathers.

We fell for it hook line and sinker. It said all the right things. It gave us feel good feels, as they say. Well, Mr Bachchan is now the ambassador for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao mission, and given his massive reach with the population of India and his now genial public persona as the friendly host of Kaun Banega Crorepati, this makes him the ideal choice to advocate change in mindsets.

This is what it is then. Don’t talk about it. In homes, don’t tell us who is touching you in a way that disturbs us to hear it

And so it came to pass that he was asked his views at a press conference on the spate of rapes in the country recently. His reply, as the ambassador of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao initiative, is perhaps emblematic of all that is wrong with this country. He said, and I quote, “Even discussing this issue feels disgusting, don’t bring up this issue. It is terrible to even talk about it.”

This is what it is then. Don’t talk about it. In homes, don’t tell us who is touching you in a way that disturbs us to hear it. They’re family, we don’t want to hear about it, we don’t want to deal with, perhaps if we ignore it enough, it will go away. On the streets, don’t tell us about what has happened to you on the way to college, we don’t want to hear it, you must have done something to encourage it, why did you wear that pair of jeans, couldn’t you have been more modest. At the workplace, don’t tell us that your superior harassed you, you brought it on yourself, you were probably angling for a raise and a promotion and now that it didn’t come through, you’re slapping an accusation on a good man. Don’t tell us, don’t talk about it. Keep quiet. “Even discussing this issue feels disgusting, don’t bring up this issue. It is terrible to even talk about it.”

On the streets, don’t tell us about what has happened to you on the way to college, we don’t want to hear it, you must have done something to encourage it, why did you wear that pair of jeans, couldn’t you have been more modest

That’s what we do. Keep quiet. The horrors that go on in some homes go on and on because of this imposed bubble of don’t talk about it. We have generations of scarred, damaged adults because we won’t talk about these things. It is too terrible to even talk about. Our silence is complicit. The people who are in a position to change attitudes by their words are silent and complicit. It is more comfortable to pen letters, snugly ensconsced in one’s little bubble of privilege.

We got it wrong when we look to these ambassadors for acknowledgement of the heinousness that women and children are subjected to. When one cannot even bear discussing these crimes, with what authority does one claim to advocate a mission to save little girls.

It is our blinkered attitude that has led us to this point today that every single day we have cases of sexual abuse and rape that make it to the newspapers. For every one report that gets news coverage, many don’t. A majority don’t even make it to a police complaint. There is no redressal for the many victims, who are condemned to not even be statistics in the fight against sexual violence and abuse, because the crimes against them never got reported. We got it wrong when we look to these ambassadors for acknowledgement of the heinousness that women and children are subjected to. When one cannot even bear discussing these crimes, with what authority does one claim to advocate a mission to save little girls. These are spaces women need to reclaim. These are missions women have to be their own advocates for. Because the men, they continue to fail us, over and over again.

Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. Views are the author’s own

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