Thursday, 19 July 2012

Thank you for nothing!

By Lea Goelnitz, Intern in Gender Training Institute - Centre for Social Research
Over a week passed and India is still outraged over the Guwahati molestation case, which by now also hit the international press, where the incident caused shock and disbelief as well.

Yesterday the National Commission for Women (NCW), which objective is to represent the rights of women in India and to provide a voice for their issues and concerns, commented on the matter.

The involvement of the NCW in the case already started with a scandal. Alka Lamba member of the team that investigated the Guwahati molestation case stated the victims name publicly. Alka Lamba was consequnetly removed from the team.

As if this unprofessional faux pas was not damaging enough already, Mamta Sharma, the chief of the NCW managed to top the previous scandal by sabotaging the work of campaigns and awareness raising strategies against violence against women with the most absurd comment.

Matma Sharma stated that women should be careful about the way they dress because such incidents are a result of blindly aping the West.

Suggesting that there should be a dress code for women to ensure their safety, Sharma said that aping the West blindly was eroding Indian culture and causing such crimes to happen.

She said:” Be comfortable, but at the same time be careful about how you dress."

It is scandalous that a reactionary comment like that is coming from a woman who is supposed to be a supporter of women’s rights.

What is most outrageous and also dangerous about this comment is that it is a well documented and proven fact that what a woman wears has no impact whatsoever on her safety!

Comments like that feed into the victim-blaming approach, which is the very problem which hinders effective policies and strategies to ensure safety from violence in public places.

As long as the majority of society believes that it is women’s own fault if she gets harassed or raped, there will never be enough pressure put on authorities and the police to direct resources into the protection of women and the perpetrators will walk free without feeling guilty.

Women do not cause street harassment. It is the low status of women and the unequal power relations of gender which cause street harassment. This has nothing to do with what a women wears or if it is daytime or night time.

A great project by Blank Noise collected clothing for the “I Never Ask for It” campaign to visually demonstrate the range of clothing women are wearing when men harass them. Have a look at the some of the clothes here.  This is helpful in creating awareness towards harassment.

Comments regarding women’s dress and behavior are not helpful at all; they discredit women’s rights work and are false.

Thank you for nothing, Matma Sharma.

1 comment:

  1. another point regarding the second part of the NCWs comment:
    "aping the West blindly was eroding Indian culture and causing such crimes to happen"

    Of course there is also street harassment and all kinds of violence against women in the rest of the world. There is not country where gender equality is achieved. But the "West" and "western dress code" is not the source of violence against women. If one follows the international press, the worlds' most "famous" countries for sexual harassment in public at the moment are India and Egypt.The scale of harassment and the tolerance towards it is very different from other places. There is a huge difference between walking the streets of Berlin and the ones in Delhi.