Women activists and writers have come down heavily on Home Minister Araga Jnanendra for questioning why the Mysuru college student who was gang-raped had chosen to visit a desolate spot at the Chamundi foothills. Such statements questioning the victim’s movements are not a one-off and are a reflection of the mindset of society, they said.
In the past, too, similar statements have been made, trying to shift the blame to women. For instance, former Home Minister G. Parameshwara had blamed “Western ways of thinking and dressing” when several women were molested on Brigade Road on New Year’s Eve of 2017. In a case very similar to the gangrape case in Mysuru, a student who was sexually assaulted on the Jnanabharathi campus in the city in 2012 was also blamed.
Activists also pointed out that attempting to curtail the movement of women at night, “for their own safety”, was the wrong approach — one that shifts the blame on to victims. Jasmeen Patheja, founder-director of Blank Noise, a movement demanding safe spaces for women, said such statements only reflected a skewed mindset. “We know that violence against women can take place at any time, night or day, and across all spaces — streets, homes, public transport, workplace, campus — irrespective of whether they are in school uniform, sari, or jeans,” she said.
Actor and Congress leader Ramya wrote on social media, “As women, we are constantly blamed for every crime a man commits… We often hear this — it is your fault, you shouldn’t have done that … because we are conditioned to think that men will be men and therefore we must compromise, we must change, we must be careful, we must put up …”
Several police officers too concede that the Home Minister’s statement was ill-advised. Former State police chief S.T. Ramesh said that irrespective of the place, situation or time of day, the government was obliged to provide protection to all its citizens and questioning them on their actions had no place in this day and age.
On the criticism over the lack of police patrolling in the area where the girl was gang-raped in Mysuru, he said, “Patrolling alone won’t prevent such matters. Such heinous offences can be prevented when there is the deterrent of law in the area, an intangible entity that can be established through meticulous policing every day.”
Feminist scholar and writer H. S. Shrimati said such sexual violence emerged out of the pressing need, especially in youngsters, to prove male supremacy within the patriarchal system.
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