India’s rape problem is exaggerated, says minister for women
In second “All India Women Journalists’ Workshop”, Maneka Gandhi, Minister for women and Child development said that the country’s problems with rape and sexual violence are exaggerated by the media and thus, driving away tourists.
According to a report of The Times of India, in a reply to government inaction on rape, Minister said the Indian media’s overemphasis on rape was driving away foreign tourists, who are constantly told that India is unsafe for women. She said: “In those [foreign] countries [rape] does not become big news, as their newspapers don’t report these cases like we do. We have zero tolerance towards rape and our newspapers will write about it everyday.”
“Someone said to me that no one wanted to travel to India. I had data with me and I took a look at it and then showed it to him. As per that data in the world, we ranked among the lowest four countries in terms of rape cases. Sweden was No 1.”
However, The Guardian quoted a few journalists who attended the workshop and were shocked with the statement. Loveleen Tharmani, a bureau chief at Himachal Dastak who attended the workshop, said the minister’s statements were inaccurate. “In my state [Himachal Pradesh], there are countless rape cases. The minister seemed to be saying that rape is not such a big problem, but I don’t really agree. It is an everyday matter. Perhaps it’s true that the government isn’t really doing anything about it, there are so many reported cases still lying in files, and nothing has really been done.”
It is to be noted that Gandhi is not the first minister with such outrageous statements. Senior ministers in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata party have made similar comments in the past. In 2014, the finance minister Arun Jaitley said the Delhi gang rape was “a small incident” that cost the country billions in tourist dollars. Others, such as the tourism minister Mahesh Sharma, have implied that foreign women share accountability in rape if they wear short skirts or reveal too much skin.
Gandhi said she is providing numbers to provide a perspective on rape crisis which is claimed in the country. However, the comments like “Ladke hain..Galti ho jati hai..” by Ministers had also provided a perspective to the rape conditions in country.
The Guardian quoted the survey of global experts in 2012, India was voted the worst place in the world to be a woman, lower even than countries such as Saudi Arabia. Rape often goes unreported in the country. Women who come forward are frequently blamed for enticing attackers by wearing revealing clothing, drinking alcohol or being outdoors after dark. Victims may also face huge social stigma: many are labelled unfit to marry or “dirty” after they have been attacked. Many women who report rape cases to police are turned away and pressured not to speak about it. Marital rape is not considered a crime.
Another Journalist quoted in the report, Aarefa Johari, working with news website Scroll, said it was time the Indian government started to take its rape problem seriously. “As the minister for women and child development, [Gandhi] should know how these reports are put together. She was trying to make it sound like India’s not that bad, that we shouldn’t think of it as a rape capital, but the basis on which she was making that claim was uninformed and silly. What does it matter where India stands on an international list? We have a toxic rape culture and there is proof of it all over India.
“It is exhausting to see India’s leaders, especially the minister for women, not wanting to talk about the root of the problem.”
The ministry of women and child development did not reply to the Guardian’s requests for comment.