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Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi (MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Sexual violence

India’s minister for women claims media exaggerate country’s problem with rape

By WITW Staff on November 23, 2016

India’s minister for women, Maneka Gandhi, is under fire after telling a workshop for female journalists that India is safer than Sweden for women, and that the media had driven away tourists by overemphasizing the country’s problem with sexual violence.

“I went to Sweden two years ago when, because of the Nirbhaya incident, cases were being reported every day,” Gandhi said, referring to the infamous 2012 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi. “Someone said to me that no one wanted to travel to India. I had data with me and I took a look at it and then showed it to him. As per that data in the world, we ranked among the lowest four countries in terms of rape cases. Sweden was number one.”

“In those [foreign] countries [rape] does not become big news, as their newspapers don’t report these cases like we do,” Gandhi added. “We have zero tolerance towards rape and our newspapers will write about it everyday.”

In India, rape often goes unreported and women who do come forward face the risk of victim-blaming and being labelled “dirty” or unfit for marriage. Even then, women report being turned away by police and being pressured into silence. Marital rape, under Indian law, is not a crime unless the wife is below the age of 15.

Sweden, by contrast, has one of the world’s widest definitions of what constitutes rape, and, under Swedish law, every incident of rape is treated as a separate crime — whereas in India separate incidents are treated as a single charge. In fact, according to a 2012 survey of global experts, India is the worst place in the world to be a woman.

Gandhi is not the first major Indian politician to try to downplay what some journalists have called a “toxic rape culture” in India. In 2014, Finance minister Arun Jaitley raised eyebrows when he called the Delhi gang rape a “minor incident.” This past August, minister of culture and tourism Mahesh Sharma faced heat after declaring that women visiting the country who wear “short dresses and skirts” jeopardize their own safety.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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