Not Again, Kangana! Mothers Don't Birth Rapists, Sexist Social Conditioning Does

Another day, another Kangana Ranaut controversy.

The actress whose tendentious comments manage to keep her in news even if her films don't, has once again waded into controversy, curiously close to the release of her film 'Panga'.

This time the Manikarnika actress has tangled with Padma Shri awardee advocate and legal activist Indira Jaising.

"She (Jaising) should be kept in jail along with the convicts. How can these women pity the convicts. It is these kind of women who give birth to such monsters," Kangana said.

The actress was responding to questions about the 2012 Delhi gang rape case during promotions of her upcoming film Panga. The comments came in the wake of Jaising's appeal to Nirbhaya's mother to "forgive" her daughter's killers just the way Sonia Gandhi had forgiven her husband Rajiv Gandhi's killer Nalini and did not seek the death penalty for her.

On January 20, the Supreme Court quashed a plea by one of the four convicts, pleading he not be given the death penalty as he had been a minor at the time of the crime. Jaising's comments faced wide flak as many Indians including the victim's parents seem to find capital punishment as the only acceptable form of justice for Nirbhaya.

Anger against the convicts is but only fair. After all, the country, especially Nirbhaya's parents, remember the horrific manner of her death and the torture she was inflicted with while being raped inside a moving bus on that fateful December 16 night in New Delhi.

But Ranaut's call to put Jaising in jail and her claim that "such women's wombs" produce sons who are rapists is contentious not just because of the irony (putting down the intelligence and professional experience of an innocent woman to seek justice for another) but also because of the objectification of Jaising (or any woman) as a baby-making machine whose only job is to produce sons that may or may not end up being violent toward women.

It isn't mothers who birth rapists but society, upbringing and cultural conditioning.

Why Ranaut, a successful professional who has made no bones about her journey as an independent woman, constantly feels the need to say 'masaledaar' things in order to stay in currency is perhaps a question for her publicists and PR team. So what if Jaising is an award-winning legal activist who has worked for decades on sexual harassment and violence against women? So what if she has written books on sexual harassment at the workplace? So what if she has represented hundreds of rape survivors and helped them attain justice? The cocky Ranaut is only too quick to depose Jaising of her qualifications and send her to jail along with rapists for trying to speak up against death penalty - something that is clearly within the prerogative of lawyers to discuss.

When Jaising or any lawyer and legal consultant talks about matters like the death penalty, they are broaching a topic that is well within their professional purview to discuss and dissect. When Ranaut talks about rape and public hangings and putting innocent people in jail (during the promotion for her film no less), it reeks of nothing but a publicity gimmick.

With Delhi Legislative Assembly election around the corner, the Nirbhaya case has come out as an important poll issue. Eight years after the brutal rape and murder of the former medical student, the entire country is vexed with the delay in serving out justice. However, despite the obvious frustration, it is important for Indians to once again reflect on the WHY and HOW of our legal systems and the effectiveness of death penalties withing that system to deter crime.

Ranaut called for public hangings of the convicts to make a spectacle for future rapists. But does this kind of display of retributive justice really work? Is the point of the criminal justice system to ensure justice and redress for grievances or revenge? Study after study has disproved the efficacy of capital punishment as a successful deterrent against crime. In fact, some experts even opine the fear of capital punishment can even lead to higher cases of murder post-rape instead of just rape. Did Ranaut ever think of that when asking for "public hangings" for the convict?

Countries that support the death penalty for rapists include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and North Korea among others. None of the countries can boast of being ideal when it comes to gender equality or the rights and safety of women. Moreover, critics of capital punishment often claim that instead of making justice speedy and precise, capital punishments often lead to delay in convictions. So when Ranaut asks for a "public hanging", is it really out of concern for women's safety?

Lastly, the fact that Ranaut would shame Jaising by claiming women like her produce rapist sons once again puts the blame on the woman and the onus of raising non-rapist sons on her. Yes, parents play a key role in a child's development which later weighs in on whether the child will grow up to lead a life in crime or engage in criminal activities. But it is definitely not the mother's burden alone. Women are more than the carriers of wombs with the sole purpose of raising sons who don't rape.

If Ranaut wants to raise boys who are not rapists, she could engage in sensitisation workshops for men and women, make films that delve into gender rights, invest in children's education with sex education, study violence against women and the international theories and case studies conducted to analyze, mitigate and prevent sexual violence and crimes against women, and do some research on the existing rape culture that attracts Indian youth to voyeuristic, brutal yet flippant crimes against women.