Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan on Friday blamed mobile phones for rising rape cases in India, adding to a growing list of bizarre comments by political leaders in a country infamous for its gender bias and poor record on women’s safety.
“Mobile phone(s) are (the) reason why these incidents are happening in our society. The malicious content which can be seen on these phones is polluting the minds of the people and enticing them to commit such sins,” said Khan, a senior member of the ruling Samajwadi Party.
The state’s minority welfare minister also pointed out that “small girls are being raped nowadays”, apparently referring to the alleged rape of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl in Delhi last week.
“The rapists should be punished, but has anyone tried to find the reason behind such incidents?”
The remarks by the firebrand SP leader drew a sharp rebuke from former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah.
“Of course because rape & depravity didn’t exist before the arrival of smart phones!!!! (sic),” Abdullah said in a tweet.
Khan’s comments mirrored earlier remarks by other SP leaders including party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav who had once said, “Boys will be boys…they commit mistakes (galtiyaan ho jaati hain).”
Another party leader and Mulayam’s brother Ram Gopal Yadav too had blamed television for bringing vulgarity to homes and “polluting young minds”.
Last week, a toddler and a five-year-old girl were allegedly gang-raped in separate attacks in Delhi, bringing focus back on rampant sexual violence in the capital as well the country.
According to statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau for 2014, at least 93 women are raped in the country every day though police say that the high number of incidents was a result of more cases being registered nowadays.
India introduced stringent legislations to tackle sexual violence following the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapist on a moving bus in the Capital three years ago that had triggered street protests and nationwide outrage.
Activists, however, say that the laws have failed to act as a deterrent in a highly patriarchal society where people’s representatives get away with insensitive comments on sexual assaults.