BBC documentary on Delhi gangrape: Why outrage? Mukesh Singh's excuses are hardly unique

Sometimes the nation doth protest too much.

The rape that shook the nation happened in December 2012. Two years have passed – plenty of time for Mukesh Singh to mull over what happened. But far from expressing any remorse at his role on that fateful night, Singh was still aggressively blaming the victim in his interview.

“A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”

“When being raped, she shouldn't fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they'd have dropped her off after 'doing her', and only hit the boy."

"Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 per cent of girls are good."

His statements, brazenly unrepentant, have caused a great furore of outrage on social media. But then Singh was part of a group of thugs who repeatedly brutalized a young woman with an iron rod. Did we still need additional proof of his bestiality? Or is it somehow more real because it now comes with a BBC certification?

BBC documentary on Delhi gangrape: Why outrage? Mukesh Singhs excuses are hardly unique

Mukesh Singh. AFP.

Singh was interviewed as part of a BBC documentary called India’s Daughter. There, he is part of a larger story. But the news stories focus on his statements alone and the flurry of news coverage of just his statements in media across the world also give the convicted rapist a sort of media platform he does not deserve.

It’s unclear what we even expect from this man at this point. He has been convicted and is sentenced to die. If he had expressed remorse would that have changed his fate at all? Now do we feel more justified about his execution?

Instead his interview becomes fodder for easy outrage. Calls abound for public lynchings and castration and death. His outlandish pronouncements allow the rest of us to feel a smug moral superiority, his comments become a litmus test to separate us from them.

But if you forget for a minute the brutal and shocking details of the gang-rape he has been convicted of, Singh’s observations would not sound that out of place in the mouths of many law-abiding Indians.

"She is dressed in a manner that people get attracted to her. In fact, she wants them to do something to her.”

"A girl who gets into a car with boys is never innocent. If she does, she definitely has a relationship with at least one of them."

"If girls don’t stay within their boundaries, if they don’t wear appropriate clothes, then naturally there is attraction. This attraction makes men aggressive, prompting them to just do it."

These are no ordinary citizens. These were police officers caught in a Tehelka sting. Mukesh Singh is not the only who thinks “decent girls” don’t roam around after 9 pm. The lawyers who defended the case were not much better. One of them A P Singh had this gem of an observation:

If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight."

No wonder the Indian Supreme Court declared that Delhi was an “unsafe” city for women.

A survey of Delhi men that came out in 2012 found that 52% felt it was okay to pass comments on women as long as it didn’t get physical and more than half of those surveyed felt women invite the behavior by the way they dressed and behaved.

As Gloria Steinem says:

"Right now, the victim still may be punished more than the criminal, men may assault females to punish other men, and victimized females are often punished more than the males who victimized them."

The system in India is living proof of that mentality. Mukesh Singh, a slum dweller merely reiterates what many others think just in language that’s more blunt and crude. Our shock at his statement hides the more shocking fact that many in the country remain his brother under the skin, when it comes to blaming the victim. Our outrage becomes a way to blind ourselves to the larger outrage of a culture and society that is quick to blame the victim for what she wore, what she ate, and when she went out. Singh might be unrepentant but at least he is paying for his crimes. The rest of us so cavalier about blaming the victim for bringing it on themselves escape unscathed.

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Updated Date: Mar 04, 2015 15:54:00 IST

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