By Ila Ananya
According to PTI, BJP member and Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti has written a letter to an English daily, standing by her call to torture rapists with a “strictest” punishment.
Addressing crowds at a rally in Agra on 9th February, Uma Bharti had given out a list of punishments for rapists — “The rapists should be hung upside down and beaten till their skin comes off. Salt and chilly should be rubbed on their wounds,” she had said, before going on to argue that if UP had been under her rule, she would have ensured that rapists would have been tortured “so they scream for their lives.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard politicians calling for extremely violent ways of dealing with rapists — in July last year Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray had called for Sharia-like laws to deal with rapists (he said their hands and legs should be cut off), and back in 2013 we’d even had Ajit Pawar say that the genitals of rapists should be cut off.
At the rally, Bharti referred to the Bulandshahr gang rape case; before she went on to say that when she had been chief minister, she’d got a rapist tortured in a police station. Then she didn’t stop there, adding, “The victim was asked to watch so she could get peace.” When policemen told her that it was against human rights, she says she told them that human rights are for people, but the rapists were demons and their heads should be cut off like Ravan’s.
But it seems like it is convenient and much easier to strongly and aggressively call for rapists to be hanged and tortured than it is to actually address and put in place steps to ensure the safety of women. Why are politicians choosing to yell about hacking rapists instead of addressing the terrible conviction rates in cases of rape and the terrible language that courts use? What about the horrifying and infuriating factors that Mrinal Satish points out to in his latest book on rape sentencing in India — that rapes by acquaintances invite lower sentences, that an absence of injuries on the rape survivor results in lower sentences, or that courts have tended to impose lower sentences on defendants when the raped woman is unmarried and sexually active?
Just a few days ago Amnesty India came out with a report that showed that Muslim women who had been victims of targeted sexual violence and were gang-raped during the Muzaffarnagar riots had not been given justice even three years down the line. But who is looking into the fact that the men accused in each of these cases have been threatening the women’s families, and that the police took many many months to even file an FIR against the men? What is the point if violence like marital rape is still not recognised, and nobody actually wants to challenge laws that are biased against women?
I don’t remember the last time I heard either Uma Bharti or any other politician actually discuss sexual violence differently, and in a way that wasn’t the completely pointless demand for castration, hanging or hacking. Instead of calling for blood and torture, maybe they should do some actual work instead.