By Chris Hoenig
A top Indian official remains on the job after apologizing for making a highly controversial comment about rape.
While arguing that sports betting should be legalized in the country because efforts to stop it have failed, Ranjit Sinha, Director of the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation, awkwardly drew a parallel to rape, saying, “If you can’t prevent rape, you should enjoy it.” The comments immediately sparked outrage throughout a country that has had an epidemic of gang rapes in some of its poorest areas, many of which are not reported to police.
The National Commission for Women quickly called for Sinha’s dismissal. “We not only condemn [the comment], but also protest against it,” a spokesperson said. “He holds such a high position and is a protector of the law.” Others said that Sinha belonged in jail for his remarks. “It is sickening that a man who is in charge of several rape investigations should use such an analogy,” a Communist Party of India leader told The Hindu. “He should be prosecuted for degrading and insulting women.”
Sinha apologized one day after making the remarks. “I regret any hurt caused as the same was inadvertent and unintended,” he said. “I reiterate my deep sense of regard and respect for women and commitment to gender issues.” Sinha’s office also defended him, saying his remarks were misinterpreted. “The context of the Director’s remarks is important,” a spokesperson for the CBI said. “The Director’s point was only that if laws cannot be enforced, it does not mean they should not be there at all.”
Indian lawmakers have passed tougher penalties and stricter anti-rape legislation in recent months, largely spurred by a gang-rape trial that grabbed international headlines and brought thousands of protesters onto the streets. Four men were convicted in September in that case, which began with the rape and murder of a 23-year-old aboard a bus in New Delhi last December. All four defendants were sentenced to death. A fifth defendant in the case, the bus’ driver, hanged himself in his jail cell while awaiting trial. Defense lawyers said the convictions were only because of media pressure and blamed the victim’s death on “political murder.”
Protesters say changing the mindset of rape victims in India so they do not feel like the crime was their own fault and have the confidence to come forward is important.