In a shocking incident, four adult men allegedly gang-raped two minor girls and physically assaulted three minor boys in Goa. Soon after, the perpetrators were apprehended by the police. However, the CM of Goa, Pramod Sawant, blamed the victims and their parents:
They are 14-year-old children. Parents in Goa should also think about this. They also need to take care. You cannot blame only the government and police. If 14-15 year-olds stay on the beach all night, we need to think about this. Parents are also responsible.
-CM Sawant during State Assembly
CM Sawant is the latest, in an unfortunately long list of people in authority positions and world leaders, indulging in victim-blaming. The idea of putting the onus of a crime as heinous as rape on the victim, or in the case of minors, on a victim’s parents, rather than the perpetrator, is a flawed idea that has sadly, become far too common.
The only person responsible for rape is a rapist. This should be common knowledge, but since it’s not, we listed a few things that people could say, instead of resorting to blaming the victim:
1. This is a heinous crime and we will ensure that criminals are meted out a punishment befitting the crime.
2. Parents, society, and men, are to be blamed for raising and supporting men who believe they have a ‘right’ to a woman’s body. We need to raise better men and teach them consent.
3. Till the time these teachings come into place, we need stricter laws on sexual harassment and sexual assault.
4. From the police to the media to the judiciary, no one should indulge in character assassination of the victim, for any reason whatsoever.
5. Let’s work on developing a more humane approach towards obtaining information and evidence from victims of such crimes, and not re-traumatize them in the name of justice.
6. Clothes, age, time of the day, etc. are not an invitation for rape. Nothing ever is.
7. As government servants, it is our duty to make our roads, beaches, schools, buses, and essentially all public places, safe for people of all genders at all times of the day. We failed but we will do better.
8. We need to ask the right questions and get to the root cause of the problem. It should never be about “what she was wearing” or “where she was at the time of the act”. It should always be about “why did he rape?”
9. Let’s be more sensitive and not learn to take a joke if it makes fun of rape. Because we need to develop a culture where rape jokes and ‘boys locker room’ talks are not an accepted part of conversations.
10. Let’s not turn these incidents into a ‘warning’ for the women in our lives and restrict their freedom in the guise of ‘protecting’ them. Women won’t need protection if men were taught better and held accountable for their words and actions.
And last, but not least, it’s also on the public to bring in the change, oust leaders who indulge in problematic behavior, and contribute, on the ground level, to creating a society that teaches men to do better.