October 10, 2018

Honorable Ms. Gandhi, You're not helping

Like the many other 'well-intentioned'  misogynists, who want to 'balance their acts' by sending contradictory messages which claim that they are in favour of women empowerment and then act or support actions which do the opposite, you seem to be confused. You sending these signals is a matter of concern, because you're the standing Minister of Women and Child Development.

You said you are happy that there is a Me Too movement in India. I don't understand what you are happy about, when at the same time you also said that the campaign shouldn't "go out of control" and women should refrain from "targeting those who have offended them in some way" (meant to be 'some other way then sexual harassment') (link).

While there is nothing technically wrong with what you said, the context in which it was said and the deemed necessity on your part to state it specifically are very problematic to me. What is the Me Too movement (link) about? It is a movement which stemmed from the need to enable victims of sexual harassment or abuse to come out in the open with their stories and flag their abusers. Abusers could be anyone, including powerful or popular personalities, and in a movement like this one, such names are likely to come up because there has been no forum for women to talk about powerful men who violate them till now.

Ms. Gandhi, you must understand, not just because you are a woman but also because you're in a position of power and responsibility which can actually impact women of India in a meaningful way, that it is very hard to come out in the open as a victim of sexual assault. And the sure shot way to stall women from coming forward is by casting suspicions at victims's stories before even they are out already! By telling them to exercise caution and restraint, like sexual assaults are not under-reported enough already! What you've done is take an argument which rape apologists or assaulters routinely make in their defence and quote it in this context to delay the process of victims coming out in the open.

And it happens with every narration of sexual assault. 

May be she is just making it up...

May be she was 'asking for it'...

May be she provoked him 'somehow'...

Especially with famous / powerful personalities. 

He doesn't seem like a rapist.

The trend to is call the victim a liar, till so many victims come out in the open that it becomes hard to deny the allegations (link). And lots of people ask this question - why didn't they come out before? The thing is - it is very common for abuses perpetrated by an assaulter to be mass reported, because the first incidence of reporting emboldens others to follow. It is a natural reaction, and there is nothing illogical in this pattern. Needless interrogations around this line from public are nothing but victim blaming and distractions from the real issue.

// Rape culture is pervasive insistence that false reports are common, although they are less common (1.6%) than false reports of auto theft (2.6%). Rape culture is pervasive claims that women make rape accusations willy-nilly, when 61% of rapes remain unreported. ...

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that a rape victim who reports hir rape is readily believed and well-supported, instead of acknowledging that reporting a rape is a huge personal investment, a difficult process that can be embarrassing, shameful, hurtful, frustrating, and too often unfulfilling. Rape culture is ignoring that there is very little incentive to report a rape; it's a terrible experience with a small likelihood of seeing justice served. // - link

Those statistics above are based on US, but the situation in India is not any different. We all know how under-reported sexual assaults are, and how low the chances of conviction are. 

So the last thing I want is for the Women and Child Development minister to give unnecessary emphasis to false accusations when she is supposed to be speaking in support of a movement which helps victims of assault reveal their stories and assaulters. That's rape culture for you, served with a twist. Sick of it.

Related posts:
1. Shh.. Don't make a scene..... - link
2. Rape Culture 101 by Melissa McEwan (must read) - link
3. In response to 'What exactly happened on 2017 New Year's Eve in Bengaluru? What could be the causes of this?' on Quora - link