"I'm the Haryana chief minister's wife. I did not go to meet any of the rape victims as it would have politicised the issue," said Asha Hooda, wife of CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, when asked whether she had visited the victims.
She was at the Chandigarh Press Club on Wednesday to address a seminar on female foeticide and atrocities against women.
Asha Hooda, who claims to be into social service, said her political affiliation had restricted her role as a social activist. Apparently rattled by the barrage of questions from mediapersons, she said, "Please spare me. Though I'm associated with a politician, I'm not one."
On the recent spate of rape cases in Haryana, she said it was the upbringing of youth that made them commit such crimes, adding that the government should not be held responsible for such incidents. "Cases of rape and eve-teasing have always been there, but no one came forward to report them. Presently, we hear so much about them as these are getting reported and the media is focusing more on the issue," she added.
On cases of sexual abuse at Rohtak's Apna Ghar, Asha Hooda, vice-president of the Haryana Child Welfare Council, said, "The matter came as a shock to all of us. The deputy commissioner used to visit the shelter home once in three months, but even he could not find out what was happening there."
She claimed that the government or the police could step in only after a case was registered. The CM's wife also blamed the law for discouraging rape victims from coming out and reporting the cases.
"A rape victim is again raped in the court when she is asked all those dirty questions. Our legal set-up needs to be amended," she said.
Commenting on Congress president Sonia Gandhi's visit to rape victims, she said, "Officials of the state government have also been visiting the victims, but no one writes about them. When Sonia Gandhi meets them, it's national news."
Also present during the seminar was Meghna Malik, a TV actress who belongs to Sonepat and has played the lead role in the serial, 'Na Aana Is Desh Laado', which depicts the state of women in Haryana. Recalling her teen days, Meghna said she had been a victim of eve-teasing when she used to live in Sonepat with her parents about a decade ago.
"The mindset of people hasn't changed ever since. I salute women who come out and have the strength to report crimes," she said.
Dr Harshinder Kaur, a social activist from Patiala, spoke about women as victims of dowry, rape and female foeticide.
Speaking on the occasion, journalist Dona Suri said women's empowerment was necessary to check crimes against women. She stressed that various welfare policies and programmes of the state government should be implemented sincerely.
Meanwhile, Asha Hooda released a book, 'This Happens in India', authored by Dr Harshinder Kaur.
Haryana govt's steps
Asha Hooda listed confidence-building measures being adopted by Haryana for women:
1. DSP-level women officer in all villages and districts (However, it is debatable whether Haryana has these many women DSP officers)
2. Public prosecutor to question rape victims in private
3. Helpline numbers to be publicised
4. Women cops to be put on duty for night patrolling
5. Encouraging women to come forward and report crimes against them