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Conservative backlash arrives with heightened awareness of violence against Indian woman

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 7th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

With the growing awareness of violence against women and girls in India has come the expected political backlash. While recent incidents has served to galvanize some sections of Indian society, others have come forward to say that many high-profile victims of sexual assault, on some level, have brought it upon themselves.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The most well-known recent case of sexual assault in that nation was in December 2012, when a young female medical student was gang raped on a moving bus in Delhi after seeing a film with a male friend.

Asha Mirje, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, referring to the gang rape victim as "Nirbhaya," a Hindi word meaning "fearless" by the media, recently spoke on the topic last week.

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"Did Nirbhaya really have go to watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend?" she asked. Mirje also commented on the gang rape of a photojournalist who was on assignment at a disused mill in Mumbai last year, asking why the victim had gone to such an isolated place.

"Rapes take place also because of a woman's clothes, her behavior and her presence at inappropriate places," she said, adding that women must be "careful" and think about whether they are inviting assault.

Mirje and her party have since apologized for the remarks; activists say such comments demonstrate how age-old attitudes continue to clash with a fast modernizing India.

Discussions about rape, acid attacks, sexual harassment, molestation, dowry murders and female feticide have become a hot topic of public discussion in India.

While this has helped create greater awareness and social intolerance towards gender crimes, it has also led to a conservative backlash which has over the past year manifested itself through a series of disturbing incidents - some of which can only be described as an attempt at moral policing.

Six villages in the northern state of Haryana in May of last year decided not to send their daughters to school due to instances of sexual harassment of teenage girls. The decision was later reversed.

Village councils in the same region had also earlier called on the government to lower the age of marriage of girls to 16 from 18, saying that it would stop rapes occurring.

Delhi's law minister was likewise accused of "moral policing" when he allegedly led a mob which illegally detained and harassed a group of Ugandan women on the suspicion that they were involved in a drugs and prostitution racket.

The Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has defended the actions of his minister saying that "rape tendencies start from drug and sex rackets."

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