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RJD Minister Blames Jharkhand Gangrape on 'Item Songs' and 'Porn'. How Long Will We Trivialise Rape?

RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari blamed porn and item songs for the rise in rape after a woman was gangraped by 17 men in Jharkhand while her husband was held hostage | Image credit: Reuters/ANI (inset)

RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari blamed porn and item songs for the rise in rape after a woman was gangraped by 17 men in Jharkhand while her husband was held hostage | Image credit: Reuters/ANI (inset)

RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari from Bihar said that 'item dance in films, ads, pornographic content on phones prepare the mindset for rape' following the alleged gangrape of a Jharkhand woman by 17 men.

In a disturbing yet hardly surprising statement, a Rashtriya Janata Dal leader has blamed the horrific Jharkhand gang rape case on “consumerist culture", item songs, and porn.

Speaking to media in wake of the crime that took place in Dumka where a 34-year-old woman was gang raped by 17 men while her husband was held hostage, RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari said that rape was not common in “tribal culture" and that “consumerist culture" was to blame for the gangrape.

“No one could’ve ever imagined that a girl/woman would ever be raped in a tribal area. There was no rape in the tribal culture but the consumerist culture that began to bring in modernism, presented women as articles for consumption," Tiwari told news agency ANI.

Tiwari further added that the easy availability of pornographic content and “item songs" on mobile phones was one of the root causes of rape.

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“Item dance in films, ads, pornographic content on phones prepare the mindset for rape. Just making stringent laws won’t end it. As long as the situation that incites people for rape persists, you won’t be able to stop it," Tiwari added.

The heinous rape which took place on Tuesday in Dumka has outraged the nation. According to reports, the victim and her husband were returning from the market when 17 men assaulted the duo, held the husband hostage and gang-raped the woman.

While the crime itself is unpardonable, much like all cases of rape, Tiwari has become the latest in a long list of politicians to peg instances of violence against women on anything other than a failure on the state’s part to protect women. Tiwari, a prominent RJD politician from Bihar’s Bhojpur district, is not the first political leader to blame rape on things like “consumerist culture".

Indeed, what the leader said was not entirely incorrect. Several feminists have time and again raised their voice against the voyeuristic objectification of women in countless “item songs". Does the Indian commercial film industry compliment, and even nurture rape culture? Absolutely. But is that the sole reason why the woman in Dumka district was gang-raped by 17 men? And can porn be blamed for gangrape? Perhaps not.

Rape culture is not just a result of simpleton locals getting wrongly influenced by corrupt “Western" values. It isn’t the availability of pornographic or voyeuristic content on phones that is the problem. The fact much that such content is created and circulated in platforms supervised by the Censor Board.

Additionally, blaming pop culture AFTER an untoward incident is easier than reversing entrenched, age-old patriarchy.

Earlier in the year, the gang rape and subsequent death of a Dalit girl, followed by a hushed midnight cremation of her body without the consent of the victim’s family in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras became a crucial talking point.

The victim named four upper-caste men as her rapists. And yet, several politicians and influential upper-caste voices tried to deny the “caste angle" in the crime and even shielded the accused.

Or in the case of the horrific rape-murder case of an eight-year-old girl in January 2018 after which two politicians attended a rally held in support of the accused.

Or in 2014 when a woman politician in India blamed women’s choice of clothing as the reason for them getting raped.

Rape culture is also the result of politicians not being held accountable for the things they say and the incidents they fail to condemn. When a state fails to show seriousness in its attitude toward women’s safety and repeatedly fails to ensure safe spaces for women at home and outside, item songs become mere accessories to a mindset that already puts the safety of women on the backburner.

After an atrocious incident such as the one in Jharkhand (and indeed all cases of violence against women), what is needed of politicians is to own up to the state’s failure in providing a safe space for women, and ensure speedy justice for the victim.

Instead, Indian politicians continue to indulge in knee-jerk reactions that amount to nothing more than a bunch of frivolous headlines and social media reactions, and an occasional staff writers’ rant or two on days when the news cycle is light.

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