Indian government officials have struggled to suppress the country’s rape epidemic, and some have exacerbated public outrage with insensitive remarks. The latest such remark comes from a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, who claimed rapes “happen accidentally.”
The official in question is the Chhattisgarh state minister for law and order, Ramsevak Paikra, who responded to a question about a recent gang rape in a neighboring state by asserting that such matters are rarely intentional. Paikra, who belongs to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, explained of the crime, “Such incidents [rapes] do not happen deliberately. These kind of incidents happen accidentally.”
The comments made headlines across Indian television and prompted a clarification from Paikra that he had been “misquoted” by the media. That did not assuage outrage towards the sentiment, however. State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel responded by calling for a public apology to women for a statement he called “irresponsible.”
Prime Minister Modi himself has not commented on either the statements or the gang rape and murder, which occurred in the village of Katra Shahadatganj. Maneka Gandhi, his newly appointed child welfare minister did, however, condemning police officers for not doing enough to solve the case. “Police is still not acting in the right direction. All policemen involved in the incident should be terminated,” she told the Press Trust of India (PTI).
India’s rape epidemic has been accompanied by a number of unfortunate remarks from public servants, ranging from the poorly worded to the outrageous. In the latter category is a declaration by Abu Azmi, the head of India’s Socialist Party in the state of Maharashtra, who declared that rape victims should “be hanged” along with rapists because all sexual activity outside of marriage, “with or without consent,” is banned by Islamic law.
More recently, another member of the BJP party courted controversy in addressing the same gang rape as Paikra. Paikra’s analog in Madhya Pradesh province, Babulal Gaur, said in a statement that law enforcement could not call a rape a rape unless it was reported. “This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong,” he said. “Until there’s a complaint, nothing can happen.”
The gang rape incident that has triggered such remarks is one of several such incidents commanding headlines in India. In Maharashtra, both the owner and manager of a boarding school were arrested after five children testified that they were being sexually assaulted and forced to watch pornography and perform sex acts on each other. According to this testimony, they were forced to eat feces as punishment if they did not comply.