Indian political and religious leaders give slut-shaming advice on how not to get raped

Protesters in New Delhi against the Indian governments response to the brutal gang rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey

Rape culture, the pervasive, unchecked, beast that has created the conditions for rape to occur with the horrifying, disgusting frequency and grotesqueness with which it occurs, guides the way people think about women’s bodies, women’s autonomy and who is responsible for sexual assault. A fundamental piece of rape culture is the belief that women’s bodies should be protected and kept hidden so as to deter the lustful gazes and uncontrollable actions of men. Rape culture assumes a set of ideas about gender, nature and behavior–ultimately, men can’t control their desire and urge to rape if faced with possible access to a woman’s body. According to some people–a woman walking down the street is enough to set off this compulsive and uncontrollable behavior.

While the US refuses to accept our own culture of rape–there is a concurrent thread in India–an inability to see exactly how slut-shaming or putting the onus on women’s bodies and behavior as the cause for rape is not just perpetuating rape culture, but limiting women’s lives, choices, mobility and ultimately allowing for rape to occur.

Trigger Warning

From the–we can’t make this shit up files–comes a list of advice from prominent thinkers and leaders in India on how women could avoid rape:

Abu Asim Azmi, state president of the Maharashtra Samajwadi Party says, “I support death penalty for the Delhi rapists but there should also be a law that women should not wear less clothes and roam around with boys who are not their relatives. What is the need for roaming at night with men who are not relatives? This should be stopped.”

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee: “Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options.”

Dr. Anita Shukla, scientist at the Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya: “When a group of men intend to rape, they will do it. The victim should save herself for bringing the perpetrators to book… Had the girl simply surrendered (and not resisted) when surrounded by six men, she would not have lost her intestine. Why was she out with her boyfriend at 10 pm?”

MP Rajpal Saini: “Why do housewives and school going girls need mobiles? It encourages them to make futile small talk and get connected with people outside their homes.”

Asaram Bapu, self-proclaimed “godman”: “She should have taken God’s name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said ‘I consider you as my brother’, and should have said to the other two ‘Brother I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother.’

The list has more, from as silly as “women shouldn’t carry cell phones,” to damning, horrifying advice on holding the hands of the perpetrators and begging them not to rape you.

We don’t actually know what happened the night that Jyoti Singh Pandey was violently sexually assaulted and as a result lost her life–what she was wearing, her relationship to her friend, if she was on her cell phone, if she fought back. And none of that matters, because in a culture of rape–there is never a way to be pure enough, hidden enough or less woman enough. The only way to see less instances of sexual assault is to push for a culture where rape is not considered a legitimate and natural behavior by men and where women are empowered and able to walk the streets in comfort.

Reading this list and writing this post makes me sick to my stomach and it’s not the first or last time we’ve seen shaming advice thrown on women to carry the burden of a culture that refuses to recognize where the fault truly lies when it comes to rape. Even in death, victims are questioned for their dignity, and their behavior–as though on a fundamental level our hatred of women goes as far as to believe that when a woman is brutally raped and as a result murdered–she somehow deserved it.

My hope, our hope, is the thousands of women hitting the streets demanding justice and freedom to push past a belief that rape is natural and a woman walking the streets is unnatural. The logic just isn’t there and it’s time for the culture to reflect that.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted January 9, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    While there’s nothing wrong with the article itself, I do request that you change the statement below the picture. That being;

    “Women protest in New Delhi against the Indian governments response to the brutal gang rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey”

    I believe, unless I have various colored smudges on my glasses, that men are protesting as well. Ignoring such, while I’m sure not intentional, isn’t so helpful. It would support the (very correct) notion that men -can- think outside their pants.

  2. Posted January 9, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    As a person who has grown up in the Indian culture in the United States, this story has pained and horrified me. It seems that India has their own Todd Akins and Richard Mourdocks. What ashamed me even more is that some of these comments were made by WOMEN.

    Hollaback! is a great website that researches street harassment and shares stories about women who have been harassed all over the world. As long as phenomena such as eve-teasing (local to India) to general cat-calling and whistling are allowed and aren’t taken seriously, then women can have no hope of being safe.

    It shouldn’t matter, hypothetically, what the woman was wearing, where she was, who she was with, and what time it was. Are the same questions asked of a man? These are the questions the Indian–and American–law enforcement should be asking.

  3. Posted January 9, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Giving women good advice on how to reduce the risk of being raped in a world where there are men whom rape isnt slutshaming.

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