NEW DELHI – Even after the fatal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi in December triggered an uproar, conservative politicians, police and even judges continued to suggest publicly that somehow women in India are asking for it -- by dressing provocatively, staying out late at night and daring to have male friends.
Following the high-profile gang-rape of a Mumbai photojournalist last month, for example, the police commissioner came under fire for questioning whether couples should be allowed to kiss in public.
Now a well-known Bollywood actress, Kalki Koechlin, is taking on the they’re-asking-for-it logic in a cheeky video called “Ladies, it's your fault.” The video went viral over the weekend, with more than 828,000 hits on YouTube.
“Ladies, do you think rape is something men do out of a desire for control, empowered by years of patriarchy? You have clearly been misled by the notion that women are people too,” Koechlin says, speaking directly into the camera in the simply-shot video. Then she points a finger at the viewer and says, “Because let’s face it, ladies. Rape, it’s your fault.”
Conversation around rape and violence against women has never been more open in India.
Victim-blaming is rampant, but some women are lampooning and questioning the ubiquitous practice with a ferocity never before seen.
Newspapers now prominently report rapes. If police officers, politicians or religious leaders say anything deemed insensitive, they are pilloried – on the street, on television and on social media – until they apologize or withdraw their statements. Police officers say that instead of silently suffering, more and more women are feeling confident about reporting sexual assaults.
The excuses for rape that are featured in the video -- women’s clothes, working late hours, going out with male friends, or talking on cell phones – are all based on public comments about rape from the past 10 months. The video's two female stars are made up to look more battered as the clip progresses.
“At no point have we trivialized rape, at no point have we added any frivolity to it. It's very dark, and it’s treated with a certain bit of sarcasm,” Juhi Pande, a television VJ who features in the video, told the news channel NDTV 24x7 on Monday. “It's not just education, it’s a little more than that. It's about changing mindset, changing upbringing.”