It's unimaginable that a top law enforcement official in the United States would ever make the following statement about rape: "If you can't prevent rape, you enjoy it.” But the director of India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the country’s top investigation agency, did, and and now he is facing a huge backlash from women's rights groups and others in a country where sexual assault and violence against women and girls represent an epidemic.
Ranjit Sinha has apologized for his remarks, explaining that he was only making an "inadvertent and unintended” analogy while discussing his views on gambling and betting. The implication was that rape, like gambling, was inevitable in any society. "I gave my opinion that betting should be legalized and that if the laws cannot be enforced, that does not mean that laws should not be made,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is as erroneous as saying that if rape is inevitable, one should lie back and enjoy it.” Sinha added: "I regret any hurt caused… I reiterate my deep sense of regard and respect for women and commitment to gender issues." Also, a CBI spokesperson told The Hindu newspaper: “The context of the Director’s remarks is important. The Director’s point was only that if laws cannot be enforced, it does not mean they should not be there at all.” The CBI is an elite investigative police agency force that falls under the jurisdiction of the Indian Government.
However, many leading women's rights activists in the country remain unconvinced. Brinda Karat, an MP for the Communist Party of India (Marxist), condemned Sinha's comments and demanded his resignation from the high-profile position. "It is sickening that a man who is in charge of several rape investigations should use such an analogy,” Karat told the Hindu. “He should be prosecuted for degrading and insulting women.” Similarly, Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research in Delhi told the Hindustan Times newspaper that "such a senior police officer... should not have [made] such a remark. It is not acceptable and he should apologize for it. It has become a habit of people in senior positions to treat the issue of sexual assault lightly."
Another activist, Kavita Krishnan, complained to BBC that if the one of the highest investigative authorities in the country "doesn't understand the difference between rape and enjoyment, then he should step down from his position.”
Indeed, on Tuesday, one day prior to his expressions of remorse, Sinha seemed to defend his statements, telling the Hindustan Times that the reactions to his remark amounted to “malicious propaganda; it's hitting below the belt, and it's unfair.”
Meanwhile, calls for his ouster are gathering momentum. The National Commission for Women (NCW) is also calling for Sinha’s resignation, dissatisfied with his tepid apology. “He has made a controversial statement. We will not only condemn it but also protest against it,” NCW member Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar said, according to Press Trust of India. “He holds such a high position, and as the protector of law, how can he make such an insensitive and irresponsible statement? It shows his sick mindset and we feel that if necessary we may recommend the government to seek his resignation after the explanation. We will take proper action and will definitely see that such [a] thing is not tolerated.”
Dr. Anita Raj, PhD, director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health and Professor in the Division of Global Public Health, Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Diego, also condemned Sinha’s statements. “These remarks reveal that efforts toward educating police in India on rape continue to be inadequate,” she told International Business Times. “Rape analogies like these belittle the significance of a severely traumatic experience that affects more than 3 million women in India, according to data from the WHO.” Raj noted that the 3 million figure only refers to “non-partner rape” -- the numbers are much higher if one includes marital rape.
Some Indians also voiced their displeasure with Sinha on Twitter. Kiran Bedi, social activist and a retired Indian Police Service officer, said: “[The CBI director] must consider making a public apology for his irresponsible remarks on 'betting and rape'! This is not expected from such positions!” Vir Das, Indian comedian and actor: “Dear Ranjit Sinha. If you can't prevent stupidity, deploy it.” Taslima Nasreen, Bangladeshi author and exile: “Unbelievable! Central Bureau of Investigation director Ranjit Sinha said 'if you can't prevent rape, enjoy it'.” Sagarika Ghose, Indian journalist and TV news anchor: “If rape is inevitable, enjoy it? This [uh] gentleman is the country's top cop?” Vidyut: “Get lost, Ranjit Sinha. Last thing we need is a creep pretending to protect people.” Satya Saraswat: “Ranjit Sinha is the perfect example of the rot in our institutions.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.