Nirbhaya and “one small incident of rape”

Did you ever wonder how much a rape is worth in the marketplace or at the governmental level? No? Neither have I, but apparently some do. Earlier this month, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised a storm of protest when he reflected, “One small incident of rape in Delhi advertised world over is enough to cost us millions of dollars in terms of lower tourism.” The “one small incident” was the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a young woman, now known as the Nirbhaya case. Nirbhaya means fearless.

When protests exploded all around him, the Finance Minister regretted his words, and of course the ways in which they had been “misconstrued”. As so often happens, the perpetrator becomes victim if he argues long enough, has a big and high enough pulpit, has loads of money and moneyed friends, and is a man. Check, check, check, and check.

As witness to his recantation, the formal, published version of the Finance Minister’s talk removed the word “small.”

While the diminishment of a terrible event of violence against a woman, and of violence against women, was horrible, and according to many of the responses and critiques much worse, the reduction of sexual violence to an economic equation is equally problematic and wrong. If the `one small incident of rape’ only cost, say, a thousand dollars, would it then be fine? Would it then not be a matter of concern for India’s Finance Minister? Is finance exclusively and only a matter of hard, cold cash, and curiously that of other nations?

There are calls – from the victim’s family, from women’s groups, and from the general citizenry – for the Finance Minister to resign. It’s not enough. Words of repentance and regret are fine, but they do not suffice. Arun Jaitley is part of State power. He has been for years, both in the opposition and now in Cabinet. Let him and his colleagues say less and do more. If he and his colleagues want to show any kind of remorse, show it in the national budget. Invest in those organisations in India that are sisters to organisations such as Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust in South Africa, organisations made up of women and men, made up of individuals and communities, hard at work at the coalface of sexual violence. Don’t talk about the millions of dollars lost to “one small incident of rape.” Invest the millions of dollars, rupees, rand in one major issue: stopping violence against women. Be fearless.

Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg writes at Women In and Beyond the Global and at Africa Is a Country, and is Director of the Women’s Studies Program at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

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About rapecrisisblog

We have a vision of a South Africa in which rape survivors suffer no secondary trauma, and are supported throughout their interaction with the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Our mission is to promote an end to violence against women, specifically rape, and to assist women to achieve their right to live free from violence. Rape Crisis Cape Town seeks to achieve its mission through counselling and training of women, thereby reducing the trauma experienced by rape survivors, and encouraging reporting of rape and the conviction of rapists.

4 thoughts on “Nirbhaya and “one small incident of rape”

  1. Pingback: The scale of India’s “one small incident of rape”

  2. Rather than discuss lost tourist dollars, perhaps the Minister could have referenced these numbers:
    “92 women were raped on an average every day in India and the national capital with 1,636 cases recorded the highest number of such crimes among all cities last year.
    According to figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of rape cases reported in India has gone up to 33,707 in 2013 from 24,923 in 2012. In 15,556 cases, the rape victims were aged between 18 and 30 years in 2013.
    The number of rape cases has doubled in Delhi in 2013 compared to the previous year. A total of 1,636 rape cases were reported in the city last year, while 706 such cases were reported in the year 2012. On an average, four rape cases were reported in Delhi everyday in 2013.”

  3. Thanks Dan Moshenberg for this great blog. Several countries including the UK, Australia and now South Africa are trying to count the cost of violence against women in economic terms. They are looking at costs for policing, forensic and medical services, court services, social services, psychological services and welfare services. And leaving it at that. Costing things like time off work, decreases in productivity, money spent on transport and on increased security are not factored in. Of course the whole issue of pain and suffering, well that is too difficult to quantify apparently. However, these limitations aside, it will be interesting to see whether there are any arguments to be made for a risk management approach to violence against women and whether this would motivate the South African government to adopt a more coordinated response to rape.

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