An Awful Lot of Indian Lawmakers Face Rape Charges Themselves

In an effort to appease outraged Indians reeling from the death of a 23-year-old who was violently raped and beaten in New Delhi earlier this month and the government's generally terrible track record with handling rape cases, government officials have vowed to "name and shame" convicted rapists. That government policy, reports the Wall Street Journal, could very well serve as an exercise in introspection, since, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms, authorities have already "charged at least six members of India's state legislatures with rape and 36 other local politicians for crimes against women including sexual abuse and assault."

The number of Indian politicians residing in the country's 552-member lower house of Parliament who are facing criminal charges (including rape) has risen by about a third since 2009, all the way to 162. Numbers like these, explains Association for Democratic Reforms founder Jagdeep Chhokar, point to a systemic failure within India's political system to privilege justice over electoral success. "The trend indicates that political parties believe that winning the elections is the only thing that matters," says Chhokar. "How the election is won seems to be immaterial."

These numbers also suggest that, despite its tough-talk about rape prevention and prosecution, the Indian government is contributing to a culture of misogyny and victim-blaming that keeps rapists from being brought to justice. Rape cases can go on for years (in some cases, according to the Journal, even decades), and the Election Commission of India, the country's primary electoral sentry, is powerless to prevent politicians facing criminal charges from seeking office. Since the Commission is in this way utterly toothless, police are often reluctant, explains Chhokar, to take action against an accused rapist belonging to a political party because that person, accused or not, might someday come to power as a legislator, which makes investigating and prosecuting a politician of any crime even more of a thankless and treacherous task than it is in a sophisticated democratic machine like the United States.

Many Indian Legislators Face Rape Charges [WSJ]