There isn’t a day that goes by in India when you open a newspaper and don’t see a news item (or four) about rape. There’s the Dalit girl who is gang-raped by upper-caste men in her Haryana village. There is the Mumbai professional who is raped by an acquaintance because she dared say no. There is the Bangalore student who is dragged away from a parked car and raped by a group of men who believe that because she is making out with one man she must be ‘up for it’ with them as well. There’s the girl who set herself on fire because she couldn’t live with the stigma of being a rape victim. And then, there’s the father who kills himself when he is shown video clips of his daughter being molested by a group of men.
Given the staggering number of rape stories that emerge from India every day, there really isn’t much more than we can learn about this crime, is there? We know that it is not so much about sex as it is about power. We know that such is the aura of shame that surrounds the crime that the victim ends up feeling much more at fault than the perpetrator. And we know that society plays into that feeling of guilt by effectively telling the woman that, in one way or the other, she asked for it.
But that doesn’t stop political leaders across the world from giving us the benefit of their wisdom on the subject of rape. And here, in no particular order of importance is what I have learnt about rape from these worthies.1 Marrying late causes rape. Young men and women have sexual desires; so as soon as they reach puberty, they should be married off so that they do not ‘stray’. In other words, the best way of ensuring that rape does not occur is by making sure that girls and boys are married off as minors. Because, as we know, married women never get raped, and married men only ever have sex – consensual or forced – with their wives.
Source: Sube Singh, Khap Panchayat leader in Haryana. This view was later endorsed by Om Prakash Chautala, a former chief minister of the state, who weighed in to say that crimes such as rape did not occur in the good old days (he went all the way back to the Mughal era to mine his example) when girls were married off as minors.
2 Around 90 per cent of rapes occur when women go along willingly with their rapists. When what starts off as consensual sex goes wrong, these women start crying rape (the naughty trouble makers!).
Source: Dharambir Goyat, Congress party spokesperson, Haryana.
3 Eating fast food like chowmein (or presumably Maggi noodles) causes rape. The consumption of this kind of food – burgers and pizzas, for example – creates a hormonal imbalance in men, makes their animal instincts veer out of control, and their increased sexual desire manifests itself as rape.
Source: Jitender Chhatar, Khap Panchayat leader, Haryana.
4 If you go to a nightclub, drink too much and talk to men who are strangers, then you really shouldn’t complain when you are raped. Honestly, what were you doing there in the first place?
Source: Madan Mitra, minister in the Mamata Banerjee government of West Bengal (a view never repudiated by the woman chief minister herself, who later categorised the rape cases in her state as a ‘criminal conspiracy’.)
5 If you get raped, and the rape is ‘legitimate’ (as in you are not making this stuff up to make yourself sound more interesting) then the body has a way to ‘shut itself down’ and you will not get pregnant. (All those women who do get pregnant after being raped? Whose bodies didn’t ‘shut down’? Well, we know what to think about them, don’t we?)
Source: Todd Akin, US Congressman who is running for the Senate as a Republican candidate.
6 If you do get pregnant as a consequence of being raped (you dirty slag, you!) then abortion is not an option. Because even if it is conceived in an act of rape, a child is still a ‘gift from God’. Yes, this is what God himself intended.
Source: Richard Mourdock, US Senate candidate.
7 Some rapes are more serious than others. In the case of an 18 year-old man having sex with an underage girl, or in cases of date rape, the crime is less serious than other rapes and deserves a lesser punishment.
Source: Kenneth Clarke, Justice Secretary, United Kingdom.
Yes, this is what political leaders across the world – not just in backward, obscurantist Haryana but in such developed, enlightened countries as the USA and the UK – believe about rape.
Honestly, what can you do but laugh? Because if you didn’t laugh, you would have to cry: at the ignorance; the insensitivity; and the sheer stupidity of it all.
Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami
From HT Brunch, November 4
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