It is perhaps difficult to decide what is more worrying in our country - the increasing instances of sexual assault or the increasing need to rationalize said sexual violence.
It is futile to deny that in the deeply patriarchal structure of the Indian society, more than just a tolerable percentage of men believe women, especially the victims, have a role to play in courting sexual assault. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had famously pointed out that there must be a reason why more women get raped in India rather than in Bharat. India for him stands for the liberal, 'westernised' urban spaces, which according to him, has little respect for traditional Indian morality and decorum. And it doesn't take a genius to figure that the men of the country were not exactly being held guilty for being 'westernised'.
However, what is even more disturbing is how women, many of who are public figures, have decided to don the role of moral police and are accusing women of putting themselves for rape as it were. The latest to join this bandwagon is Asha Mirge, a member of the Maharashtra Women's Commission and a member of the Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). According to reports, Mirge said in a public meeting yesterday that there are three reasons women gets raped: how they dress, where they go, and how they behave.
A report on Mail Online quotes Mirge as saying, "Did Nirbhaya really have go to watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend? Take the Shakti Mills gang-rape case. Why did the victim go to such an isolated spot at 6pm?" She was addressing a women's gathering in Nagpur.
A Times of India report identifies Mirge as a gynecologist from Akola, who has been involved in social work for the past two decades. It also points out that while Mirge was explaining the reason behind rapes, Supriya Sule, who heads the women's wing of the NCP was present on the stage - but she didn't utter a word in protest.
It is perhaps relevant here to recall, that when the anti-rape bill was being discussed in the Lok Sabha last year, Supriya Sule came across as one of those rare voices of reason amid a cacophony of mindlessness.
Sule had recounted an incident that had reportedly taken place while she was on a flight to Delhi. "I was travelling to Delhi at the time Nirbhaya was fighting for her life in the hospital and there were protests in across the country. A man walked up to me and said, you (meaning the political class) can only feel the pain and the anxiety that this incident has filled us with, when something like this happens to a daughter from one of your families. I was shocked and taken aback. But I also understood where this deep resentment comes from - women across the country are not safe, how can people not grudge the politicians for it?" she had said.
Evidently, the demands of political diplomacy eclipsed the glimpse of good sense that we had seen in Sule back then. It also shows that how vote-bank appeasement - which involves furthering or not shattering narratives of regressive social morality - is a disease in our political classes that will also stand in the way of holistic women's empowerment in India.
Mirge is a woman who has had the luxury of being educated and allowed to actively follow a public and political life. It's disheartening how even literacy fails in the face of prejudice.
Mirge has now apologised and said that her views are not that of the party's. Neither does she possess the finesse of a public speaker - hence the mistake. While that might be a public face saver, what the apology doesn't cover-up is how deeply pesonal freedom is resented when it comes to women in India - and that too by a large section of fellow women themselves.
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Updated Date: Jan 30, 2014 06:51:16 IST