According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, in 2013, there were, nationally, 33,707 rape cases, up precipitously from 24, 923 in 2012. New Delhi suffered the highest incident of rape, accounting for 1,636 cases in 2013. That’s up from 706 in 2012. Mumbai, Jaipur and Pune, the next three cities with the highest reported incidents of rape, together had 754 rape cases in 2013. In 2013, in 13,304 of the reported cases, the victim was a minor. In 2012, that number was 9,082. Finally, in 94% of the cases, the offender was “familiar to the accused”: a parent, neighbor, relative other than parent, or someone else. 94%.
These numbers are beyond disturbing.
Last month, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised a storm of protest when he reflected, “One small incident of rape in Delhi advertised world over is enough to cost us millions of dollars in terms of lower tourism.” The “one small incident” was the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a young woman, now known as the Nirbhaya case. Nirbhaya means fearless.
When protests exploded all around him, the Finance Minister regretted his words, and, of course, the ways in which they had been “misconstrued”. As witness to his recantation, the formal, published version of the Finance Minister’s talk removed the word “small.”
While the diminishment of a terrible event of violence against a woman, and of violence against women, was horrible, and according to many of the responses and critiques much worse, the reduction of sexual violence to an economic equation is equally problematic and wrong. If the `one small incident of rape’ only cost, say, a thousand dollars, would it then be fine? Would it then not be a matter of concern for India’s Finance Minister? Is finance exclusively and only a matter of hard, cold cash, and curiously that of other nations?
There are calls – from the victim’s family, from women’s groups, and from the general citizenry – for the Finance Minister to resign. It’s not enough. Words of repentance and regret are fine, but they do not suffice. Arun Jaitley is part of State power. He has been for years, both in the opposition and now in Cabinet. Let him and his colleagues say less and do more. If they feel they must talk, let them say, publically, that as members of State they take full responsibility for the 33,707 women and girls.
But the place to show real remorse is in the national budget. Invest in those organisations in India that are sisters to organisations such as Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust in South Africa, organisations made up of women and men, made up of individuals and communities, hard at work at the coalface of sexual violence. Incidents of reported rape rose 35% in one year. Raise the budget for prevention of sexual violence and for care for survivors of sexual violence by 70%. Don’t talk about the millions of dollars lost to “one small incident of rape.” Instead, invest in stopping violence against women. Be fearless.
(This is part of a collaboration between Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust and Women In and Beyond the Global. The original, in a different version, can be found here. Thanks to the staff and volunteers at Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust for their great and urgent work.)