This article originally appeared on VICE India.
A few days ago, I watched Man Woman #MeToo, a documentary on Discovery channel tracing the roots of toxic masculinity in India, produced by VICE Studios. One segment of that film spoke about how the use of the word ‘rape’ by media publications has exponentially increased over the last year. Its research also suggests that we read so often about both women and men being raped that the word has been normalised for us, making us numb to the terrifying idea.
Last week, in a chilling incident, a 27-year-old veterinary doctor, who was returning home, was raped, murdered and set ablaze by four men. Her charred body was found on the outskirts of Hyderabad—the case prompting outrage and revulsion across the country. Many compared it to the Delhi gang rape in 2012, when a 24-year-old physiotherapy student was raped and murdered in a moving bus by a group of six men, a crime that drove a nationwide movement for women’s rights and a revision of rape laws.
This has also brought back that all-too-familiar flood of absolute chaos and confusion when it comes to finding a solution around not just how to punish such crimes, but also how to prevent them. But the kind of methods that Indian politicians are vociferously pushing for to prevent rape are not only unnecessary, unhelpful and simply ridiculous, but also super problematic.
Censoring online content
Rajasthan minister BD Kalla on Monday blamed the Internet for leading to a “perverted mentality”, which he said, then results in increasing cases of rape. With this hypothesis, he demanded that all online content should be censored. He also believes that because mobile phones let people access anything online, the content we can access with phones should be censored too, and internet should be only for educational purposes. With these sweeping statements, he is effectively suggesting we resort to a method that totally infringes upon our data privacy, especially in a country growing more and more concerned about becoming a surveillance state.
Locking up women
Probably the most logic and progress defying solution to the problem, some police officers and lawmakers believe that the streets will be safe for women as long as they stay away from them. This has mainly been the response of the Telangana government, with Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao calling for an 8 PM curfew and asking for all women to stop working night shifts to prevent the possibility of being raped. Meanwhile, the state’s police department has issued a list of 14 safety tips as part of a “very important message to all women and girls” to help them not get raped. This includes “shouting and running towards crowded areas” and always having your phone ready to dial 100. FYI, there was no advisory that was issued for men and boys calling them not to rape.
If the communal tension that has slowly been stirring in our society over the last few years wasn’t bad enough, Raja Singh, the BJP Member of Parliament from Goshamahal, tweeted a video on the incident in which he said that they had expected that someone like a ‘Mohammed’ would be named in the incident, while Bollywood actor Payal Rohatgi tweeted out asking whether the incident had occured in a “Muslim majority” area, thereby giving it a false communal spin. In an interview with The Quint, DCP Prakash Reddy said, “It is absolutely not communal in nature as the accused are of all communities so it is incorrect to say it is anything related to religion.”
Another destination the finger is being pointed to is the indiscriminate sale of liquor, which Congress' Nalamada Reddy believes is the reason behind the brutal rape.
Lynching rapists in public
During a parliament session on Monday, prominent actor turned Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan said that those accused of raping someone should be lynched in a mob, a suggestion that was wholeheartedly supported by BJP Member of Parliament Roopa Ganguly who said there should be “public hangings” of the rapists to discourage anyone from meeting the same fate.
But this is a really irresponsible suggestion to put out there, especially given the rise of mob lynching and violence, coupled with a spike in fake news being trasmitted on social media and WhatsApp messages. Therefore, this suggestion of inciting vigilante justice through violence would not only encourage more people to take matters into their own hands and execute them with violence, but could also mean that innocent bystanders could be framed in fake news scandals.
This tactic has been around for a while and is unsurprisingly being reused as a pathetic excuse to cover up the lack of safety measures for women. Telangana Home Minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali also clearly believes the onus should fall on the victim, saying the “educated” girl in question was raped because she called her sister instead of the police. Never mind that the family claims that the police did practically nothing and said the victim might have “eloped” when they first approached them saying the girl was missing. In fact, they even dismissed two petrol pump staff members who approached them to report two of the suspects, delaying police action until the public outrage erupted in their face.
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