It has been over a year since the infamous New Delhi gang-rape where a 23-year-old student was brutally raped, tortured and killed on a public bus in 2012.
Traumatized by the events of that night, India has spent the year putting forth efforts to create strict measures against rape. Despite this, rape continues to be a horrifying reality to many Indian women. Just last week, a 20-year-old woman was gang raped by 13 men in her rural village in eastern India. The most horrifying part? This was on the orders of the village court as punishment for having a relationship with a man from a different community. On Christmas eve, ten men were arrested for gang raping a 21-year-old woman. Even more shocking, early last year, a 7-year-old girl was raped inside a state-run school in the Indian capital.
These are only a few of the many rape cases which occur in India and have caused a number of protests.
Under all the tragedy that India has faced with rape-related cases, we certainly didn’t expect to hear a public figure put the blame on rape victims. Unfortunately, we were wrong.
Asha Mirje, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and a member of the Maharashtra Women’s Commission is under fire for her recent remarks. While discussing the New Delhi gang rape, Mirje commented, “Did [the victim] really have go to watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend?”
She then addressed another case where a photojournalist was gang raped in Mumbai. “Why did the victim go to such an isolated spot at 6pm?” Mirje asked. “Rapes take place also because of a woman’s clothes, her behaviour and her presence at inappropriate places.”
“Due to these reasons, a woman has to think whether, mistakenly, she is not inviting or inviting (sexual assault),” she added.
As expected, Mirje’s shocking comments received instant outrage.
“Every time such a statement is made by a public figure it justifies rape,”says Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. “It’s unconscionable that people in public posts make such remarks.”
Many others are insisting that she be removed from her position.
“She has no moral right to continue on the post as she is biased against women,” says Rupa Kulkarni, activist and the leader of domestic workers in the state.
Another activist Seema Sakhare added, “How can a member of women’s commission make such a comment whose duty is to protect women in the state?”
Since her remarks, Mirje has defended herself.
“I just said that although men are responsible for rapes and molestation, women too need to take more precautions in order to protect themselves,” she defended. “If anyone was hurt by my statement, I am really sorry. I am not diplomatic. There was no bad intention and the motive behind my statement was pure concern for women’s safety.”