Jan 23, 2014, 12.10 AM IST

No country’s path to growth and development can bypass the goalposts of women’s empowerment and Women’s safety is a prerequisite to both, besides being a fundamental human right. Most political parties have accepted this at some level since countrywide protests after Nirbhaya‘s gang rape. But at other levels we see a very disturbing penchant for ‘protective’ actions that exploit and inflame existing prejudices. AAP‘s law minister Somnath Bharti could be particularly culpable on this count. Given that his party came to power decrying Sheila Dikshit‘s track record of ensuring women’s safety in Delhi, this is ironic and sad.

In the name of ensuring safety of unspecified ‘mothers and sisters’, he allegedly led a midnight mob to humiliate and harass specified women. That the latter were African lends a xenophobic and racist colour to this episode. One Ugandan woman has named Bharti for leading the attack against her group last week. This attack must be seen within the framework of a deplorable history of charges against a woman’s ‘character’ being used to trample her rights. It’s a patriarchal-populist fallacy shared by almost all members of India’s political class, AAP emphatically included, that women’s security can be strengthened by targeting specific classes of women.

Various women’s organisations have pointed out that this is one case where senior police officers defended women, law and constitutional values. Instead of punishing its errant minister, AAP put the national capital under siege to punish a police officer who did the right thing. Women’s safety took backstage. Upright police officers must be feeling demoralised. This, unfortunately, is politics as usual.

Worse, it does nothing to suppress the incendiary narrative that women somehow bring ‘it’ all upon themselves. Dikshit cautioned women not to be too ‘adventurous’ or venture out at night. Mamata Banerjee has dismissed rapes as a conspiracy against herself. She has stumped critics by demanding, “Are all women being raped?” Even the National Commission for Women chairwoman advised women to be careful about how they dress. The underlying idea is to blame victims for the crime. This only emboldens a conservative backlash, seen in village elders persecuting women sporting jeans and mobiles. But modernity will not be halted. Indian women will keep walking the road to education and employment. AAP must learn that government’s job is to keep this road well lit and ruled by law.

Read more here — http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Womens-safety-requires-undoing-of-patriarchal-myths-AAP-shares-with-other-parties/articleshow/29216619.cms


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