The honourable Congress MP from Goa, Shantaram Naik, made a statement in Parliament to the effect that women who socialise with strangers beyond midnight invite rape. His remark was later expunged – I love this word – from the records of the House. It’s as if those words were never said. Would that it were that easy for the victims to expunge the memories of rape…..as if it never happened. And why blame this man, when the Chief Minister of Delhi, herself a woman, believes that a woman travelling alone at night invites trouble? And, given her liberal parole-granting record, we can safely guess that she also believes a woman working in a bar after midnight is asking to be shot.

So, I thought to myself, let me get this argument straight. What do we have here? What does this argument, so often touted by our law-makers, imply? Well, here’s what Naik actually wished to say but couldn’t fully articulate (he’s a politician after all!): a prostitute deserves being coerced into a sexual act by cops. A woman out at night with strangers deserves to be raped. A woman out at night with friends deserves to be raped. A student travelling on a rickshaw with her brother deserves to be raped. A female tourist in India deserves to be raped. A girl spending time with her boyfriend deserves to be raped. A two-and-a-half year old child deserves to be raped. A mentally-challenged twelve-year old girl deserves to be raped.

Well, I know I am a little slow, but I finally got it. What Naik and his ilk actually meant is this: if you have a vagina, you deserve to be raped.

I think that’s a very clever argument. And we are extremely fortunate to have such people decide our destinies. It’s just a matter of time before these bright sparks figure out that this line of thinking – ‘blame the victim’ – can be extended to many other sticky situations. Say I die in a terror attack. Clearly it was my fault. Why was I out shopping, or eating out, or even travelling in a train? I should have stayed home. I deserved it. And if I die because the overloaded boat I’m on capsizes? You guessed it. My fault again. Who told me to take a holiday? I should have stayed home. I deserved it.

Ok, I get it. I should be home. But what if I die at home? Say terrorists attack my building and shoot me dead. Or, if I wish for a relatively more prosaic ending, my unauthorised, bribe-enabled and therefore sub-standard building collapses. What then?

Why, then we have the failsafe! That’s right, you suckers, we’ll expunge that awkward question!

See? It’s as if it was never asked.

Expunged. I just love that word.

Saudi Arabia took the debate about beauty and the commoditisation of women to a whole new level this Friday.

Sample this surreal piece of breaking news from Riyadh: “Saudi beauty queen Aya Ali al-Mulla trounced 274 rivals to win a crown, jewellery, cash and a trip to Malaysia, and all without showing her face.

To win the title of Miss Moral Beauty, Miss Mulla had to go through three months of ‘tests’ to prove how much more dutiful than the other contestants she was towards her parents, and society.

While one of the organisers claims that “The real winner in this competition is the society”, what I found interesting was the fact that the only other pageants so far held in Saudi Arabia had as contestants “goats, sheep, camels and other animals, aimed at encouraging livestock breeding”. What a great list to be part of!

Well, after decades of struggle, Saudi women have finally been given their own pageant and now take their rightful place in that long and exalted list. Though I am very sure the aim – quite laudably – still continues to be socially sanctioned breeding.

Because that’s what women everywhere are for, isn’t it? That’s what moral beauty is all about – duty towards husband, parents and society. And fecundity. Let’s not forget the fecundity.

One of the accused in the alleged rape of the American girl studying at TISS has apparently tried to bring in the old, tired “character-of-the-victim” defence ploy.

Regardless of the specifics of this case, why does anyone even entertain such a plea anymore?

When will we understand that it doesn’t matter if the victim is a prostitute? It doesn’t matter if a woman, at any time of the night, willingly accompanies six males with the intention of having sex with each of them; if she changes her mind before or during intercourse, and a man still persists, it is rape. End of story.

Why do we continue to allow a line of defence that seeks to allocate weights, based on this nebulous, indeterminate and totally subjective thing called “character”, to the categorical refusal of women to have sex? Especially in a country where a woman who wears skirts, smokes or drinks alcohol is either assumed to be no better than a prostitute, or worse, easy game. If that woman happens to be Caucasian, well, all she’s in India for is sex with desirable and sexy Indian men, isn’t she? “Desirable-and-Sexy” apparently being the self-image of every Indian above the age of 15 with a penis.

What a crock of shit.

The guardians of Hindu culture are back. Women should not go to pubs and should not drink. I wonder what else their charter of demands comprises. That women should be veiled from head to toe? That they should not be educated? That they should endure a life of servitude – euphemistically called marriage – and domestic violence? That they should consider themselves fair game as far as rape, molestation and sexual assault are concerned?

And if this wasn’t shocking enough, it seems this ‘cause’ has found supporters in the most unlikely places. Apart from the usual suspects, it seems even a Congress Chief Minister and the Communists agree that women should not be in pubs. “India is not Europe. Mushrooming of pubs is not part of the Indian culture,” said Communist Party of India state (West Bengal) secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar.

Aaaah…Indian Culture – the glories of a 5000 year old civilisation that celebrates feudalism, casteism, ignorance, misogyny, cowardice, treachery, selfishness and a total lack of concern for one’s fellow citizen.

Please join me, as we enter the 60th year of our constitution, in saluting the people of this country who have allowed the great gift of constitutional democracy to wither away in large parts of the country and, where it hasn’t withered away, to turn into a shameful travesty.

Sheila Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi, feels that a woman driving home in her car late at night in India’s capital is being adventurous. In other words, she’s asking to be killed. Women shouldn’t travel at night. Better still, they should probably never leave home at all. After marriage at 18 (unless she thinks it should be earlier), and after getting themselves impregnated at regular intervals, shouldn’t they stay home, bringing up the children and cooking for the husband?

Silly season, as you can see, continues.

Ramadoss bans smoking, and gives the police another handle to beat the citizen with. So a friend of mine, smoking in his car, was flagged down by overzealous policemen and told he couldn’t smoke in his car. To which he produced the rules related to the smoking ban and asked them to show where it said so. They couldn’t. Deprived of some easy money, the cops then checked his driving license, PUC certificate, registration and insurance papers. Disappointed at not finding anything amiss, they reluctantly let him go.

The Rajkot police, meanwhile, ever vigilant and conscientious about their duties as Enforcers-Of-Indian-Feminine-Modesty, have put backless cholis on their Dandiya blacklist. Not for our young girls these indecent, flesh-showing cholis. This is not what Indian culture (arre, more than 5000 years, you are not understanding?) is about. This is Women Being Adventurous. And being adventurous, as we know, can either get you killed, or knocked up. The Sheila would approve.

Take heart, fellow citizens. This only goes to show that underneath our petty regional differences, we are still a nation, bound by stupidity and regressive thinking.

There is also good news. (Surely you didn’t think I was just a purveyor of gloom?) Anyway, the good news is contraceptive sales are up 25% in Ahmedabad. And I’m sure in Mumbai as well. It’s good news because this season’s a shag fest anyway, and at least some of the copulating couples have figured out that safe sex is the way to go.

Jenny and Dave, of Our Delhi Struggle, are running a fund-raising project with the objective of bringing sanitary pads to poor women in rural India who risk vaginal and urinary tract infections (and thus illness, incontinence, and infertility) during every period from puberty to menopause. Please check it out at http://ragstopads.com/ and spread the word.