Indian officials victim blame women for New Year's "mass molestation"

Indian officials victim blame women for New Year's "mass molestation"
Source: AP
Source: AP

Multiple women in Bangalore, India, were sexually assaulted on New Year's Eve by what some victims told the BBC were "mobs of men."

A woman named Pooja told the outlet that while she was waiting on the street for a friend to pick her up around 12:30 a.m. local time, a group of people walking by began "pushing and shoving, touching, grabbing, [and] groping" her and other women on the street. Pooja said someone pushed her to the ground, at which point a group of girls helped her up and walked with her. As they continued walking down the road, she said men continued to touch them.

"There was not a single face you could make out or who was doing it," Pooja told the BBC. "As soon as you turned you would be groped or grabbed. There were so many people there that you could not pinpoint who was doing it."

According to local Indian outlet NDTV, the gropers had been among thousands of people who poured into Bangalore's famous Mahatma Gandhi Road in the early hours of New Year's Day. 

An unnamed woman told the station that the men were "taking advantage of the intense crowd," using every opportunity to grab at women in the streets. She called it a "mass molestation."

Crowds flood Bangalore's streets during New Year's Eve celebrations in 2010.
Source: Aijaz Rahi/AP

The New York Times reported that Indian authorities are investigating the incident after finding "credible evidence in a case of wrongful confinement, molestation and attempt to rob." 

However, some government officials suggested that many of the women could have prevented their own sexual assault. 

"Youngsters were almost like Westerners," G. Parameshwara, home minister of Karnataka, said in an interview on Monday, according to the New York Times. "They tried to copy the Westerner, not only in their mind-set but even in their dressing. So some disturbance, some girls are harassed, these kind of things do happen."

Maharashtra State assemblyman Abu Azmi added to these victim-blaming sentiments on Tuesday when he said, "The more nude the woman looks, the more fashionable and modern she is called."

"They tried to copy the Westerner, not only in their mind-set but even in their dressing. So some disturbance, some girls are harassed, these kind of things do happen."

Pinning blame on a woman for how she's dressed is nothing new, with sexual assault cases usually triggering victim blaming and slut shaming from all sides. But women like Pooja have found Indian officials' response to the mass assault particularly upsetting. 

"When I spoke to some people, I was told that this had happened last year as well," she told the BBC. "So why weren't arrangements made? Instead of pretending nothing will happen, authorities should make efforts to curb this." 

She continued, "I have been in Bangalore for three years. I thought it was a safe city."