The lawyer representing three of the men charged with the gang rape and murder of a medical student aboard a moving bus in New Delhi has blamed the victims for the assault, saying he has never heard of a “respected lady” being raped in India.
It would seem more outrageous if Sharma’s clients weren’t being railroaded in a system in which the bar association was trying to deny them counsel. But Sharma’s argument, which would be extreme in the West, might play in India:
“This is the mentality which most Indian men are suffering from unfortunately,” said Ranjana Kumari, director for the New Delhi-based Centre for Social Research. “That is the mindset that has been perpetrating this crime because they justify it indirectly, you asked for it so it is your responsibility.”
I frankly don’t see much distinction between the attitude, “the defendants are guilty, so they shouldn’t have lawyers” and the attitude, “women who are raped were probably asking for it.” The two views can and do coexist in conservative minds not only in India but in more advanced countries. They’re just not as prevalent, and not as openly spoken, here.
“These people are just seeking revenge,” Sharma said. “They are not seeking justice. A defendant has a right to a lawyer, this is a basic principle of a modern society.” Another basic principle of a modern society is that victims do not ask to be raped and murdered.
Maybe some day India will adopt both. Meanwhile, I don’t know if Sharma is buying what he’s selling, but I don’t fault him at all for doing what he can, in that benighted culture, to save his clients’ lives.