After Twitterati fumed over comments made by Member of Parliament Kirron Kher that the gangrape victim should not have boarded the auto when she saw three men sitting inside, the MP said on Thursday she suggested a “small act of ensuring personal safety as a mother” as “we cannot get into people’s minds or change their intentions overnight”.
On Wednesday, Kher had said at a press conference that the victim should not have got into an autorickshaw in which three men were already seated. Kher was trolled on social media platforms for the remark, with many commenting that instead of ‘advising’ the girl, she should have advised the law enforcement agencies to improve law and order situation. Congress leaders too slammed the MP over her version.
In the evening, reacting to comments from across the nation, Kher in her statement said, “I strongly believe that women’s safety is an enduring and continuous process in our country. Yesterday, my statement about the gangrape in Chandigarh was taken out of context, selectively reported, and gravely politicised — all of which distracted from the real message I wanted to send out to the girls, as a woman, as a mother, and as their representative in Parliament.”
About the statement on Wednesday where she quoted her example of hiring a taxi as a girl in Mumbai, Kher said, “Any woman, when she gets into a public transport — a cab, or a rickshaw — can just click a photo of the vehicle details and send it to their loved ones. Make sure the driver knows that your loved ones know the vehicle details. We cannot get into people’s minds or change their intentions overnight but this is what I used to do back in Mumbai too. It is a small act of ensuring personal safety, and I say this as a mother.”
Kher further specified that she wanted to convey that Chandigarh has a facility for all women who are out late in the night and cannot find a transport. “If a woman finds herself in this position, she can dial 100 and a PCR van is sent to pick her up. As a woman MP, I am proud that my constituency offers this reliability to our girls. I did not say it was the victim’s fault that the assault happened to her, I said it is terribly sad what happened to her, and I wish she had availed the PCR facility instead of getting into an autorickshaw with the three men. I do not want to delegitimise the gravity of this crime, I want to mention constructive ways a tragedy like this can be avoided in the future,” she said.
The MP said that she had given statements regarding previous harassment incidents as well that “they should tell boys not to go out at night”. “This is a message to focus on constructive, little steps I wish for our women to be aware of when it comes to public transport. This is not to say any kind of harassment is their fault, the rapists have been caught and put to the justice system (sic),” she said in her statement, adding that when she hears about incidents of assault, she feels terribly sad and angry.
The MP then specified that she only wished that “our women be part of this enduring process with us, and take the little precautions that can ensure their safety in any way”.
“As much as I wish their freedom came at no cost, and that we become a country with no threat of sexual violence. I will not politicise the issue of women safety, and I will not tell our girls everywhere are safe. Everywhere should be safe, but it is not- not yet. Stay safe, stay constructive,” she said.
Congress leader Pawan Bansal said that the MP shouldn’t have judged the victim’s decision of boarding an auto occupied by three men.
“One is aghast to have such a statement from a responsible person like an MP. Instead of judging the victim’s decision of boarding an auto occupied by three men, she should have instead informed about what discussions she’s had with the authorities over the security of women in Chandigarh and what steps are proposed to make Chandigarh a crime-free city, which might include better lighting of all the roads, greater mobility of PCR vehicles, and taking steps to instil fear in minds of potential miscreants,” Bansal said.