H T Sangliana, the former Director-General of the Karnataka police has outdone himself by making further appalling and callous statements. During an award ceremony recognising women for their dedication and continued work in various fields, Sangliana said Delhi gang-rape victim Jyoti Singh’s mother, Asha Devi has a good physique and he can imagine how beautiful Jyoti would have been herself. Sangliana made this statement when he was called on stage to address the crowd and present an award.
When his statements were met with wide-spread social media outcry, he took to two news channels to justify his previous statement.
Sangliana was recorded as having said, “At the event Nirbhaya’s mother was present. She has a good physique and I only said that Nirbhaya too must have been beautiful. If someone comes to me and says that I still look young and have a good physique, I feel happy. I only wanted to highlight the vulnerability of women in general and in particular beautiful people. Beautiful people need protection and caution so that they won’t become victims in the future.”
Sexual crimes aren’t about sex or beauty, they are about control and power over the victim.
Sangliana’s statement and his defence aren’t only asinine, they also highlight our lack of understanding of sexual crimes and our toxic ideas of beauty. The most troubling aspects of his comments are the correlation-causation relationship being established between beauty and sexual crimes and putting the onus of avoiding sexual crimes on the victims of these crimes.
Sexual crimes aren’t about sex or beauty, they are about control and power over the victim. A lot of sexual crimes perpetrated against women are often about ‘putting them in their place’ or ‘teaching them a lesson’. The desire to control and establish power over a victim is the root of most sexual crimes.
Our toxic ideas towards women and our belief that sexual crimes are ‘disgraceful’ and ‘take away the honour of women’ make it a crime that can be used as a tool to teach women a ‘lesson’. In fact, one of Jyoti Singh’s rapist said they were trying to “teach her a lesson” for being a woman and having the audacity to be out late in the night and that too, with a man.
Associating beauty with increased vulnerability to sexual crimes is a deeply troubling belief. Beauty cannot be quantified and it is not a reason for sexual crimes. Women wearing niqabs, infants, toddlers, all women, men, people who are transgender, gender-fluid people and all kinds of people can be victims of sexual crimes; notwithstanding how they look.
Another problematic aspect is that the focus of his statement is on protection and avoidance, rather than incarceration. Sangliana talks about how women should be careful and protect themselves instead of talking about better methods of justice delivery and how to effectively incarcerate perpetrators.
Victims of other crimes aren’t expected to prevent crimes and protect themselves. Nobody suggests measures, ideas and must do’s and don’t’s for any other crime other than sexual crimes. It is acknowledged that victims of crimes cannot be expected to have the kind of foresight to prevent the crimes against them. Yet, we continue to put the onus of preventing sexual crimes on the victims, instead of the perpetrators and our culture and the people in it who enable them.
Beauty cannot be quantified and it is not a reason for sexual crimes.
Sangliana was a former police officer who certainly must have come across several cases of sexual crimes. When we have police officers making reckless and callous statements like these, why won’t sexual crimes go severely unreported?
How we collectively react to sexual assault affects how victims choose to deal with the sexual crimes they have been subjected to. Saying beautiful women are more vulnerable than other women is not only absurd, considering beauty cannot be quantified, but it also brings to the forefront our twisted ideas about women and sexual assault.
Apart from that, it takes away from the trauma survivors of sexual crimes continue to live with. We need to be aware and sensitive as a society and as individuals too. There is no excuse for making statements like H T Sangliana did, it is time we stop enabling people like him.
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