India's politicians have their own rape problem

In light of the recent brutal gang rape on Dec. 16, which led to the death of a 23-year-old medical student in India, there have been substantial criticisms of the government for not doing enough to protect women. Protestors say they will continue till they are satisfied that real action is being taken.

But in demanding action, the protesters should keep in mind the people who they're appealing to. According to a recent report, a shockingly high number of members of India's national parliament (MPs) and members of state-level legislative assemblies (MLAs) have actually been accused themselves of crimes against women, including rape.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (an affiliate of the Indian Institute of Management) compiled the report, using the affidavits filed by candidates as part of their nomination papers that are submitted to India's Electoral Commission. In other words, this was all public information at the time these members were elected.  

According to the report, in the past five years:

  • 6 MLAs had charges of rape against them at the time of their election
  • 36 MLAs have charges of crimes against women including assault and "insulting the modesty" of a woman
  • 2 MPs have charges against them of using cruelty to outrage a woman's modesty
  • 27 candidates for state elections are accused with raping women
  • 260 candidates for state elections are accused of crimes against women

These were hardly the only crimes listed in the report. Other included: assault, murder (one man had 8 charges of attempted murder), defiling a place of worship, promoting enmity between different groups, rioting and dacoity (banditry). Many of these crimes also included violence against women.  

The Association for Democratic Reforms has advocated that "cases against MPs and MLAs should be fast tracked and decided upon in a time based manner." This presumably would be similar to the recently inaugurated fast track rape courts created to deter tragic incidents like Dec. 16. Though, in typical fashion, police were late to submit evidence on time (something about difficulty in using a thumb drive).

But with so many accused rapists in government, it's little wonder that it has taken so long for rape to be taken seriously as a problem. 

Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP/GettyImages


State Department: Google exec's North Korea visit not helpful

The State Department isn't too pleased with news that Google's Eric Schmidt plans to visit North Korea soon.

According to Politico, at a briefing today spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that State will have no involvement in the scheduled visit, and that both Schmidt and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is expected to accompany him, are well aware of the government's concerns:

"Frankly, we don't think the timing of this is particularly helpful, but they are private citizens and they are making their own decisions," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters at a regular news briefing. ..."They are private citizens. They are traveling in an unofficial capacity they are not going to be accompanied by any U.S. officials. They are not carrying any messages from us," Nuland said.

The news, first reported by AP, that Google's executive chairman will be making a trip to the isolated country, has sparked chatter among analysts speculating about the purpose of the visit. Victor Cha, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has mused that the visit may be an effort to secure the release of Korean-American Kenneth Bae, currently being detained in North Korea. Richardson is well-known in North Korea, having visited at least six times since 1994 and Cha says he "has credibility with them."

Schmidt has remained silent, and a Google spokeswoman told Reuters Thursday that the company does not comment on the executive's "personal travel."