Blame the Patriarchy for Rapes—Not Women Barely a few months after the gruesome Hathras incident, where a young Dalit woman was gang-raped and murdered, Uttar Pradesh was again witness to a similar incident—this time involving a fifty-year-old woman. The details of the case are barbarous: the post-mortem revealed injuries in her genitalia, a fractured leg, and excessive bleeding. To investigate this case, the National Commission for Women—the premier governmentaffiliated women’s rights organisation in India — despatched two of its members on a factfinding mission to UP. After meeting the family of the victim, Chandramukhi Devi, a member of the commission, said, “Women should not go out at odd times under the influence of any person.” She went on to add that this incident would not have occurred if the woman had not stepped out alone. If the suffering of the family weren’t enough, these statements—by someone whose duty was to comfort and provide support—only worsened it. Ms Devi promptly retracted her statement once her remarks went viral, but by then the damage was already done. A Patriarchal Mindset Ms. Devi’s statement reveals patriarchal prejudices lurking beneath the surface. Wrapped in the language of concern for women’s safety, comments like these only feed into informal demands to curtail women’s liberties. These remarks would be typical of a sexist public figure. Indeed, reports of similar observations are too many to point to. However, this time, her status as a member of a commission set up to advise the government on women’s issues confers a legitimacy on these ill-thought-out words that other observations lack. The implicit insinuation that the woman bore some fault here is symptomatic of a deeply paternalistic mindset. That women would be safer if only they were ensconced at home, far away from reprobates, shears the state of any responsibility for ensuring the safety of its citizens. While the head of the NCW has clarified that she does not support Ms Devi’s remarks—Ms Devi has tried to walk them back too—it is important that comments like these, in the future too, don’t go unchallenged. The shifting of blame onto women for being victims of crime is deplorable and must always be condemned.
Aks Volunteer- (Kieran is a detail oriented first-year law student with a keen interest in domestic and foreign affairs.)