Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu, 5th jan 2013

Vibha Rao

Vibha Rao

“They (tribals) are in live-in relationship. Once a couple gets separated, the case goes to the police. Those are not rape,” says Vibha Rao, chairperson of Chhattisgarh State Women Commission

Vibha Rao, the chairperson of Chhattisgarh State Women Commission, doesn’t agree that her views are a case of ‘blaming the victim’ but is emphatic that women are “equally responsible” for the sexual offences committed against them.

The gruesome acts of rape and victimisation of women may have shocked many. But Ms. Vibha Rao says that women, influenced by western culture, send wrong signals through their dress and behaviour and men often take the cue from those signals. “Women display their bodies and indulge in various obscene activities. Women are unaware of the kind of message [their actions] generate,” she said.

Ms. Rao’s focus is not the criminal nature of rape or the power relations behind it, but she believes excessive “display of body” by women influenced by western culture is the key. Ms. Rao, an advocate by profession and a prominent BJP leader in the State, says Bollywood with its film songs is adding to the cultural breakdown.

Other reasons for sexual offences against women are ignorance of Hindu epics that teach values, proliferation of the Internet, and the breakdown of joint families. “Joint family system is disintegrating and hence cultural values are not inculcated in kids,” Ms. Rao said.

Tribals in Chhattisgarh have little exposure to western culture. But there have been several well publicised cases recently when tribal women have been raped without the police taking any action. Ms. Rao does agree that rape figures in tribal districts of Chhattisgarh are not ‘readily available’ with the Women’s Commission, but she says, “They [tribals] are in live-in relationship and have consensual sex. Once a [tribal] couple gets separated, the case goes to the police. Those are not rape,” said Ms. Rao.

Regarding alleged rape of the tribal women by erstwhile vigilante gang members in south Chhattisgarh, Ms. Rao said she cannot comment on ‘sub judice’ matters.