Do Indian Women Have Any Hope If Even NCW Officials Meant To Help Are Victim Blaming Us?

Why did she go out in the evening alone? This was the shocking question NCW member Chandramukhi Devi asked about the Badaun rape & murder victim.

Why did she go out in the evening alone? This was the shocking question NCW member Chandramukhi Devi asked about the Badaun rape & murder victim.

A few days ago, the National Commission for Women member Chandramukhi Devi said, “I feel had the woman not stepped out in the evening, or one of her children had accompanied her, the incident would not have occurred”, while interacting with reporters reacting to the gang-rape of a 50 year old woman in a temple in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh. In doing so, she exposed the internalized patriarchal view that exists in the National Commission of Women.

Her supposed ‘practical safety tip’ lays the unfair onus on women to alter their own behavior only re-emphasizes the feudal mindset that continues to perpetuate around us.

Focus on the perpetrator of violence

Such patronizing attitudes only takes us away from what we need to really focus on- the perpetrator.

The continued surveillance on what women wear, what time they move out and who they go out with moves miles away from the much needed scrutiny needed on the systemic failure to protect women in all spaces and spheres of life, as a human being!

Data on sexual violence in India

India’s statistics on sexual violence states that the country records 88 rape cases everyday as per the 2019 data by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

The data (which unfortunately, does not take into account the many un-reported cases, and only a fraction of reported cases actually reach the courts!) paints a rather grim picture. We need more action to call out perpetrators of sexual violence and hold them accountable than the actions of women.

Media also normalises victim blaming

Interestingly, calling out again and again, the fact that sexual violence occurs irrespective of what women wear, who they are with and where they go, has unfortunately not changed age-old misogynistic attitudes. And such comments derails all efforts of in changing narrative of victim blaming.

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Even sometime ago, media continued to normalize victim blaming in incidences of gender based violence, where the attention was clearly on the woman’s actions/ behavior rather than on the perpetrator of the violence.

Low reporting of sexual violence because of stigma

Victim blaming is possibly a major reason why survivors of sexual violence do not feel comfortable reporting about their assaults.

Victim blaming reinforces the feelings of guilt and shame among survivors. Victim blaming ensures that survivors who were saddled with the responsibility of their own safety are also held responsible for provocation of the actions of the perpetrators!

This is precisely why it is important to challenge all such people who enable victim blaming. It is also important to ensure the spotlight shifts to the perpetrator and hold him accountable.

Responsibility of popular culture too

Delving a bit deeper we will realize that popular culture too trivializes sexual violence and in many instances we often dismiss rape jokes rather than challenging them. This again normalizes victim blaming in different ways.

Acknowledging our own internalized misogyny and confronting our own psychological roots of victim-blaming can help in moving away from such actions in the future. Victim blaming often also leads towards self blame that further interferes in the healing of survivors.

So when systems that are meant to protect and hold accountable the actions of perpetrators, spout patriarchal what-ifs then there is a definite requirement to ensure structural changes begin within government mechanisms itself.

Image source: NCW website & pexels

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About the Author

Varsha Pillai

Varsha Pillai is a former television journalist who quit the fast lane in media when she moved to the erstwhile 'laid back city' called Bangalore. She earnestly believes that she can ‘write stories that people read more...

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