Blaming women for their own plight

Blaming women for their own plight

Every rape incident ushers a spate of restrictions for women rather than elicit comments on mindset of men

The Capital is in shock. It is yet another incident of the brutalization of a woman. A 23-year old pub stafffer was kidnapped from outside a mall in Gurgaon while returning home from work, gangraped and dumped at a metro station.

SAFE A man holding a poster at the recent rally against restrictions on women. But what has surprised civil society more is the ‘witch-hunting’ spree the administration went on immediately after the incident. The Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon PC Meena remembered an old law requiring all commercial establishments to take permission for women employees working beyond 8 pm, almost as if women working till late was itself the problem.

Even though he later clarified that he was only invoking an existing law, the question arises as to why our authorities tend to blame the woman, or put restrictions on her after such incidents, even as they fail to protect her in the first place.

This is not the first time that a sexual assault incident has elicited this sort of a reaction. Last year, addressing the FICCI  Ladies organisation, Delhi Police commissioner BK Gupta had said, “You can’t travel at two in the night and say Delhi isn’t safe… take someone alongwith you - brother, driver…
Those reasonable precautions are expected to be taken by all citizens of Delhi.” Before him, chief minister Sheila Dikshit had commented after the infamous Soumya Vishwanathan murder case, “One should not be adventurous”. Such remarks have been heard from authorities in other parts of the country as well. Recently, the Andhra Pradesh Police chief Dinesh Reddy opined that ‘provocative’ dresses of women is one of the reasons for an increase in the number of rapes.

When asked if such statements can potentially signal to the ill-minded that women out in the night or ‘provocatively’ dressed can be legitimately targeted, Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Maheshwar Dayal says, “These are just guidelines for women to ensure their own safety. We try and not do any moral policing. Even in the case of the pub worker, we registered her case immediately and worked upon it.” Enquired about the police constables on PCR duty who were first approached by the victim’s brother, but instead of helping him started questioning the woman’s character, the DCP quickly added, “They have been suspended.”

Organisations dealing in cases of sexual assault believe that we as a society are given to victim-blaming, and that is reflected in the functioning of our law making and enforcement authorities as well. Dr. Rajat Mitra, the director of a non-governmental organization Swanchetan, which provides psychological aid to victims, says, “We are still a patriarchal society which believes in keeping our women in control. Even in the West, till the late 1930s and 40s, the first tendency of the administration was to put the blame back on the sexual assault victim. With time they realized that
a city can be called safe only when its women can be out in the streets till late without fear or harm.
With greater debate on these subjects now in India, I see that change happening here as well. The State is being increasingly reminded that it can not shirk its responsibility to protect its women. Hopefully we’ll see a better response from the authorities in future and fewer crimes against women.”  Hopefully.

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