The Politics of Rape: Indian politicos make shocking statements

By Sudhir Kumar

With a smirk on his face, Karnataka senior Congress legislator K R Ramesh Kumar threw the caution to the wind when he made a boorish statement in the assembly. “When rape is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it,” he said. By doing so, he perhaps thought he was making a wisecrack that would send the members of the House into raptures. Expectedly, the contrary happened; condemnation came in thick and fast from across the country. The women members of the assembly, including some from his own party, were particularly riled up by the brazenness and inanity of such a remark. Ramesh Kumar, who was also a former Speaker of the state assembly, had to apologise. 

Ironically, Ramesh Kumar is not the first to have made such a shocking utterance; rather he was only joining a league of political leaders who have mouthed equally repulsive remarks to bring politics plummeting to the depths of depravity.

  

In 2009, the then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, the mercurial powerhouse of Dalit politics, and the then state Congress President Rita Bahuguna Joshi were trading barbs over the quantum of compensation to low caste rape victims. As Mayawati was doling out Rs 25,000 each to the victims, Joshi made an imprudent statement. “The Dalit women should throw the money back at Mayawati’s face and tell her ‘you should also be raped and we will give you Rs 1 crore,’” she said. Mayawati went hopping mad. She retaliated by sending Joshi to jail under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the SC/ST (prevention of atrocities) Act while her BSP cadres torched her house.

What was lost in the maelstrom was the plight of the rape victims even as the two squabbling leaders saw political opportunism in it. While Mayawati tried to leverage it for ramping up Dalit sentiments, Joshi thought her statement would corner the state government and shore up the dwindling political fortunes of the Congress. Paradoxically, when the Mulayam Singh Yadav government had announced compensation to some rape victims, Mayawati, then the opposition leader, came out with a statement that was similar to the one made by Joshi.

Surely, Ramesh Kumar painted himself in the corner by making the reckless statement, which trivializes the enormity of a ‘Nirbhaya’ incident – the 2012 brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old medical student in a moving bus in India’s capital New Delhi.

However, it served a purpose: it brought to the fore once again the murky underbelly of India’s patriarchal society, the political class in particular, and its continued stranglehold over various facets of life. The patriarchal males use rape as a weapon to subjugate women while the government feels that it has done its bit by fixing a price tag on the outraged modesty of the victims

It is this patriarchy that emboldens Bollywood actor Shiny Ahuja to rape his defenceless maid in Mumbai (2009); permits the callous administration in Madhya Pradesh to force nubile women to undergo virginity/pregnancy tests at a mass wedding function (2013); allows the hoity-toity officials at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala to force Renu Gora, a bronze medalist at the 2006 World Boxing Championship in Delhi, to serve tea and snacks to them and visiting guests (2009); and grants license to lumpens to threat Virat Kohli’s less-than-a-year-old daughter with rape (2021).

There are some other instances worth mentioning. Celebrity hair stylist Jawed Habib had the audacity to spit on a woman’s head during a hair styling workshop (2022), and he justified it by saying that saliva could be used as an alternative to water if the latter was not readily available. And when Tamil actor Siddharth tweeted sexist remarks against ace shuttler Saina Nehwal (2022), he was being another specimen of the skewed social order that keeps to marginalize and pulverize women.

Deeply embedded in India’s political and civil fabric, this system allows patriarchal males to control a woman’s freedom and sexuality. Rape is a blatant manifestation of this system. Using coarse expletives while targeting the woman’s anatomy is another weapon in their arsenal that is in sync with their false machismo. Such a mindset emboldens sick men and sex prowlers to flash their organs, rape, throw acids and kill and maim women.

As per the latest National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) report, India recorded an average of 77 rape cases daily in 2020, totalling 28,046 such incidents involving 28,153 victims during the year. Overall, 371,503 cases of crime against women were reported across the country. Rajasthan reported the highest number of rapes (5,310), followed by Uttar Pradesh (2,769 cases), Madhya Pradesh (2,339), and Maharashtra (2,061). Besides rape, there were 85,392 cases of assault to outrage modesty, 3,741 cases of attempt to commit rape and 105 cases of acid attacks during 2020.

But these statistics remain merely crime records for the politicians and police officials – at least a section of them – who continue to make foot-in-the-mouth statements. When the country was seething with anger against the Nirbahaya incident, the late President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijeet Mukherjee described the protesting women as ‘pretty women who were dented and painted’.

In 2014, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, while opposing death penalty to three men convicted in a gangrape case, said, “Boys will be boys, they commit mistakes.”

Late Trinamool Congress MP Tapas Pal even threatened to let loose rapists on his opposition, during a speech at a village in West Bengal. “If any opponent touches any Trinamool girl, any father, any child, I will destroy his entire family. I will unleash my boys, they will rape them,” he warned.

These statements made by Indian politicos can easily shock anyone into disbelief, but the reasons they advance to justify their thinking border on bizarre. So they blame almost anything for such crimes: short skirts, mobile phones, western culture, travelling in the night, non-vegetarian food, sex education, wearing bikinis at the beach, and even fast food like chowmein.   

Women wearing skirts and displaying their legs is a method to attract a man’s lustful gaze, Rajasthan’s former BJP legislator Banwari Lal Singhal said. Former Bihar minister Vinay Bihari attributed rape incidents to consumption of non-vegetarian food while Jitendar Chattar, a Haryana Khap leader, said, “Consumption of fast food like chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in acts like rape and sex.” In 2011, Dinesh Reddy, former police chief of Andhra Pradesh, said, “When you are taking food which gives good josh (energy), you tend to be more naughty as time passes. Rapes are not in the control of the police.”

When the Nirbhaya incident took place, angry protesters turned Raisina Hills (the seat of the Central Government) and India Gate in India’s Tahrir Square, carrying placards which read, ‘My Body, My Right’, ‘Rape is Ape: Have You Evolved?’, ‘Chop off their Raping Tool’, and ‘Just because I show my legs, does not mean I will spread them’.

The then Supreme Court judge Gyan Sudha Misra was among those who could not hold back her anger. “There are more security personnel engaged in protecting them than in keeping citizens safe,” she said, while describing rapists as “cobras and beasts.”     

But former Andhra Pradesh Congress chief Botsa Satyanarayana was impervious to any reasoning. He said, “Just because India achieved freedom at midnight does not mean that women can venture out after dark. They should ensure that they do not board buses with few passengers.” Such misogynistic statements are not against the perpetrators of the vilest crime against women but against the victims themselves.

In the Phoolan Devi vs Shekhar Kapoor case in 1994, the then Delhi High Court judge Vijender Jain had observed: “The display and the graphic details of being paraded nude, raped and gang raped does not only hurt the feelings, mutilate the soul, denigrate the person but reduce the victim to a situation of emotional abandonment.”

But is the political class willing to listen and shun its cavalier attitude to the issue of rape, patriarchy and subjugation of women?

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Posted by on Jan 26 2022. Filed under Community, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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