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Misogynistic Reactions by Indian Leaders on Delhi Gang Rape Incident

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Last week, the people of India took it to the streets to protest against sexual violence against women after the death of a 23-year old woman who was subjected to a homicidal gang rape in a moving bus in India's capital city. The incident attracted international attention, and many national leaders and celebrities strongly condemned the unfortunate incident and urged the government to take measures to ensure the safety of women. However, the remarks made by a few Indian leaders about the issue were not only misogynistic, but also atrocious.

Referring to incident and about the gender role of women in general, Mohan Bhagwat, the Chief of a right-wing religious organization, said that "marriage is successful only when wife looks after the household and husband takes care of the earning." Babulal Guar, the Chief minister of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, said, "Traditionally in this country (India), a woman considered her husband god. That status may have changed in modern times but what is good in our society should be kept that way."

Vibha Rao, the chairperson of a State women's commission, remarked that women are "equally responsible" for the sexual offenses committed against them. She blamed that the cause of rapes is the influence of Western culture and excessive "display of body."

Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious organization, suggested that "educational institutions should prescribe sober and dignified dress for girls," and that "co-education should be abolished and proper education facilities meant for only women only should be available at all level of education."

Abu Azmi, the member of a State Assembly, remarked that "women should not venture out with men who are not relatives". He added that rape cases are on the rise because "women wear less clothes."

Abhijit Mukharjee, the son of the President of India and a member of Indian parliament, remarked that the women who participated in the protest against the Delhi gang rape incident are "pretty women who were dented and painted" and that they do not have any contact with ground reality." He later apologized for passing this sexist comment.

Asiram Bapu, a spiritual leader, told the media that "she (the rape victim) should have called them [her rapists] brothers, fallen at their feet and pleaded for mercy. Had she said, 'I am a weak woman, you are my brothers,' such brutality would not have happened." He even went on to say that the victim is as guilty as the rapists.

The state leader of a National party, Botsa Satyanarayana, said that women should not 'roam' in the midnight just because India got its independence at midnight. He later retracted the statement following a public outcry demanding his apology.

The Indian society has deeply entrenched patriarchal views against females. Reports of rape are often followed by questions about the victim's behavior, and even accusations that she provoked the assault. Though laws guarding women from sexual assault exist in India, women hardly file complaints because of victim blaming.