Sexism has been growing worldwide at an alarming rate. But in India it has reached levels of barbarism. In 2011 alone there were more than 24,000 violations, but activists warn that the real figure is much higher.
Raping women has become an epidemic in India, with three distinguishing characteristics: the extreme savagery with which they are committed; rapes are committed by gangs rather than individuals and almost always their victims do not survive the injuries.
But the main and latest newness brought by India is the population outraged reaction. At each new sexual attack marches of protests take place on the streets, gathering together hundreds of people, including men and women. This is very positive because it is the only way to force the government to take concrete measures to stem the tide of rape.
But unfortunately it seems that it’s not precisely the way it has been happening. The government has announced measures to toughen the laws against rapists, mainly due to pressure from the protests, but these laws are never in force, they do not take effect, they exist only in theory and nothing has been done to protect women. So much so, that the attacks continue.
While the masses protest feeling outraged, government and religious sects do not hesitate to accuse the women themselves for the attacks. This week Asha Mirge, a member of the Maharashtra Women’s Commission (MWC), suggested that a woman’s clothes and her behaviour are also responsible for rapes.
“Girls must realise that their body language and clothing must be appropriate,” said Mirge at her party’s youth wing convention, the National Convention Party (NCP).
More mistakes than words
In Mirge’s speech and, because she is part of a public body it looked like as an official government position, there are more mistakes than words, more prejudice and hatred against women than a deep analysis of reality. Let us see.
To base her opinion, she mentioned the case of two recent victims of gang-rape; one of them, a student of Medicine who was abused in a bus in New Delhi, who ended up dying due to the brutality she suffered, and the other one, a photographer in Mumbai, also raped by a gang. As incredible as it may seem, particularly when it comes from a member of a women’s commission, Mirge blamed the first woman for having gone to cinema with a friendat 11 in the night and the second one for visiting some ruins at Shakti Mills located in the outskirts of Mumbai at 6 pm.
Mirge should be ashamed to utter such words, but unfortunately it expresses a condition and a feeling that actually exist in reality. The feeling that women are to blame by machismo and violence, that victims have asked to be abused or have produced a situation which enabled the rape are the common sense. Not just in India, although there everything indicates to a worse situation. Going to the movies in the evening with a friend was the mistake of the young student of medicine raped and murdered in a bus. Visiting the ruins of some buildings at six o’clock in the afternoon was the mistake of the raped photographer. What Mirge means is that women must be responsible for their own safety, which means that they have to stay closed within four walls, do not leave home after six in the afternoon, do not wear low-cut clothing but cover themselves from head to toes, as the Muslim religion demands.
For a specialist in women’s rights, Mirge is below the expectations because she advocates the common sense that male chauvinism grows because women are achieving more in their lives. What are these achievements? In India, women cannot wear the clothes they wish, cannot go to the movies with a friend or work as a photographer anywhere in the city. Let alone have a decent job, equal pay, daycare center, legal abortion, public lighting and other basic rights!
Even without any of that, in other words, with all these restrictions imposed on women, male chauvinism grows daily in number of cases and aggressiveness. The man treats a woman like an animal, because this is exactly how she is treated by the government in India. An animal without free will who either “asks” to be abused or is powerless before the threats.
At the same time, she expresses the pointlessness of the women’s commission of which she is part or, what is more likely, she expresses their connivance with a chauvinist ideology and a lack of concrete policies from the authorities to protect women.
To utter more words than mistakes, Mirge should have said the truth, in other words, she should have said that, given the situation, women should give up every minimal right they have achieved so far and return to prehistoric era, to the medieval age, when cows were considered holier than humans, when they were more respected than women. For it is exactly this, that the government to which she belongs, has been doing. India government is not fighting for the women emancipation but it is putting them steps backwards in relation to what has already been achieved.
But let us be fair. Not only Mirge directly expresses this criminal opinion. “If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it,” said Ranjit Sinha, India’s top policeman at the Central Bureau of Investigation, precisely the one in charge of rapes investigations, during a conference about illegal sports betting.
And being even fairer, it should be remembered that the popular guru Asaram Bapu, referring to the 2012 Delhi gang rape, said thet the victim was equally guilty along with those responsible for the sexual assault on her, because instead of resisting, “she should have called the culprits ‘Bhaya’ (brothers) and begged before them to stop… This could have saved her dignity and life.”
By not speaking true words, Mirge, and other noble Indian policemen and gurus, justify the rapes and murders. They say that the aggressors are right, because they were provoked by women who caused the aggressors’ libido be inflated by necklines and tight skirts and therefore the women deserved to die. Mirge’s opinion which is not isolated, reflects an overview of the committee and of the political party she integrates, it also reflects an overview of the police officers and certain gurus. This scenario signals the direction that India will take henceforth: mass killings and graveyards peace for those women who dare to behave freely. But the population has been reacting.
Repudiation is growing up
The sexual assault on the young medicine student on December 16, 2012, in New Delhi, has provoked a wave of demonstrations across the country and triggered, for the first time in the history of the country, a huge debate on the women situation. Manifestations of outrage among the population came back to the streets of Calcutta and Delhi in early January this year. A crowd came out in protest against the death of a teenager who had undergone gang-rape who, not satisfied, eventually burned the girl’s body.
The victim was 16 and had been attacked for the first time on October 26 and again on the following day by a group of six men near her home in Madhyagram, 25 km from Calcutta. The second attack occurred when she returned home after denouncing the first attack to police officers. The girl died on December 31, in a hospital due to burns she suffered. According to the doctors who treated her, the girl was pregnant. To avoid even further protests, the police did not return the body to the family and quickly arranged for its incineration, without the family’s permission, according to the victim’s father.
Faced with the authorities ineffectiveness and, worse than that, faced with the connivance of some of the bodies in charge of curbing the abuses, there is nothing left to the population but to take to the streets and not abandon them while the measures do not come. And, in this struggle, the working class plays a central role, because although it is a democratic demand, all indications are that the elites are not the least bit worried. This demand is then in the hands of the working class who should organize themselves in the neighborhoods, workplaces and at their unions in order to strengthen the demonstrations demanding from the government the necessary measures and at the same time, take on their hands the tasks for defending women, both legal tasks as self-defence tasks.
To say more words than lies, women in India, especially the poorest ones, should do just the opposite of what Mirge and other deceivers have proposed. They must leave home and go to the streets to fight! They must organize themselves on their workplaces and seek to join the working class, in the trade unions, forming committees of self-defense. The huge participation of the population on the streets is a sign that this is the right way.
Translation: Wilma Correa