New Delhi: A member of the Uttar Pradesh Women’s Commission, Meena Kumari, has said that young women’s mobile phones should be monitored as they use them to talk with men and then elope with them, when asked a question about crimes against women in the state.
A video of the interaction with reporters, in which Kumari is allegedly heard speaking on the issue was tweeted by journalist Prashant Kumar (@scribe_prashant). Reports have said that this was during a public hearing of complaints against crimes on women in Aligarh.
BIZARRE comment by Meena Kumari, a member of the UP Women Commission.
— Prashant Kumar (@scribe_prashant) June 10, 2021
In it, a journalist is heard telling Kumari that rape cases have become regular, citing instances in Aligarh and Bareilly. The journalist asks her why such incidents have happened in spite of all efforts at raising awareness.
Kumari first says that Mission Shakti has been ongoing in full strength, and then says that society itself needs to be aware of such situations. Mission Shakti is a self-help mission for empowering women through promotion of self-help groups.
“Our daughters also…we need to see where they are going, what the situation is, which boy they are sitting with, their phones…I keep telling people that girls keep on speaking on their mobile phones and things progress to such an extent that men elope with them for marriage,” Kumari says in Hindi.
[Samaj mein hain iye ki iss tarah ki case nahin rukh rahein hain. Iye hum logo ke saath saath samaj ko bhi iska karravi karni padhegi. Betiyon ko bhi dekhna padhega, kahan ja raheen hain, kya hain, kis larkein ke saath baith raheen hain. Mobile ko bhi dekhna hoga…Sab se pehle mein sab ko iye bolti hoon, larkiyan mobile se batein kartein rehteen hain aur yahan tak matter pahunch jata hain ki usko lekey bhaag jati hain shadi ke liye.]
Kumari’s remarks can also be heard in full here.
India Today has reported that Kumari also said that “if their daughters are careless, then mothers are responsible for that” at the same public hearing.
Uttar Pradesh continues to see regular crimes against women, with cases like the one in Hathras inviting nationwide outrage.
Kumari, however, is not the first to suggest surveillance on victims as a method of curbing crimes against them. The Wire had reported on Lucknow police’s plan to set up cameras equipped with artificial intelligence that will automatically take a photo of a woman in distress on the basis of her facial expression, thus pushing police to act.
The last time someone in power had made a comment on women that garnered public outrage was March, when Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat said at a child rights workshop said that “women wearing ripped jeans” did not set a good example to society.
In January, a member of the National Commission for Women, Chandramukhi Devi, had said that the Badaun gangrape-and-murder incident, involving a 50-year-old Anganwadi worker, could have been avoided had the victim not ventured out in the evening.