Feeling helpless and angry about increasing incidents of rape is understandable. But to advocate that women take the law into their own hands is unacceptable and dangerous. This is what the Delhi culture minister has done with his remarks that since the state had failed to protect women, they should be trained to use and carry arms and kill those who attempt to rape them. We would like to remind Mr Kapil Mishra that he is a representative of the very state which he says is ineffective and also that he is bound by uphold the law and not propose vigilantism.
In fact, the family of the unfortunate victims of the Bulandshahr rape case have expressed similar sentiments, though this could be because of their trauma. Mr Mishra seems unstoppable in his rage. He has sought a special law to be enacted in which rapists can be killed publicly. The fact that victims of rape suffer immense indignity and often are denied justice is a fact. But the remedy to this is to ensure that laws are implemented in letter and spirit. The minister of an elected government governed by the laws of the land should have known better than to make out of turn remarks to the effect that vigilantism is justified. His theory that the burden of proof is on the accused is also unwarranted and dangerous. The law presumes you innocent until proven otherwise by the criminal justice system. The chief minister, who claims that his ministers are being targeted by political enemies, should take strong action against the minister. Mr Mishra’s words could be taken as licence for people to settle personal scores and it also absolves the state of the responsibility of protecting women.
Delhi has become notorious for the number of rape cases it has seen, the most prominent and ghastly being the gang-rape of December 2012 which made international headlines. What he has advocated, which mercifully is not likely to be heeded, would create the sort of problem being witnessed in countries which have seen a rise in gun violence. Mr Mishra’s government should be focusing on how to make Delhi a safer place for women instead of putting the onus of safety on potential victims. “Let everyone know how we deal with those who dare touch our daughters and sisters,” may be Mr Mishra’s way of indicating that he is all for women’s rights. But women who face safety challenges everyday can do without this sort of dangerous and counterproductive rhetoric. They would value real and lawful action aimed at their safety much more.