Reporters on Thursday heavily criticized Energy Secretary Rick Perry for claiming that using fossil fuels to electrify Africa could help prevent sexual assaults.
It turns out reporters may have been too quick to attack Perry.
Fossil fuels are an integral to electrifying Africa, where much of the continent lacks reliable electricity, Perry said, adding that having electricity could prevent sexual assaults. Perry made the comments at an energy event hosted by Axios on Thursday.
“But also from the standpoint of sexual assault,” Perry said. “When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people’s lives, fossil fuels is going to play a role in that. I happen to think it’s going to play a positive role.”
Perry recently returned from an energy conference in South Africa, where he said he learned about the issue, but left-leaning reporters jumped on his comments. The New Republic’s Emily Atkin called his comments “stupid.”
Atkin also criticized Perry for ignoring the green energy revolution. She was joined by Inae Ho at Mother Jones, who wrote that Perry promotes “the false notion that sexual assault only takes place in the dark.”
“Lightbulbs, of course, can be powered by all sorts of electricity sources,” Ho wrote, once again mentioning the use of green energy in some parts of Africa.
“While we may never know where Perry came up with his connection between fossil fuels and sexual assault, he’s prone to being easily duped into believing other ridiculous concepts, like a miraculous new fuel innovation made of booze and pig poop,” wrote Vice New’s Drew Schwartz.
The Sierra Club even called for Perry to resign for “an inexcusable attempt to minimize a serious and pervasive issue.” Club President Michael Brune continued: “Women, and particularly women of color, are among some of the most severely impacted by the climate crisis, and it is these same communities that are most at risk of sexual assault.”
It turns out people who have studied the issue say there’s evidence to support what Perry said. The United Nations and Oxfam have both put out reports highlighting the need for better lighting to deter sexual assaults, a fact pointed out by The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney.
United Nations published a paper in 2013 titled “Better lighting, wider pavements: steps towards preventing sexual violence in New Delhi.”
Oxfam reported in 2017 that “[a]ccess to modern fuels is expected to help prevent the cuts, falls, bites, and episodes of sexual harassment and assault that women and girls might otherwise sustain while collecting fuelwood.”
Former New York Times writer Andrew Revkin tweeted out what he learned talking to developers in Kenya.