Rape – and what we can do about it

tl; dr version: Learn to defend ourselves.

Another rape. Nationwide outrage. Full page newspaper reports. Condemnations by celebrities and ministers. Promises of justice. Candle marches. Protests. Demands for tougher laws. Better implementation. Tighter security. And then?

Another rape…

This is the reality we live in. But it hadn’t really sunk in. At least for me. Not until today.

Never mind the complexity of the problem. Leave it to the sociologists to discover the causes. Knowing the causes is not going to help the victims be safe.

Justice, however swift, can only follow the crime. Preventing the crime in the first place is primarily the responsibility of the potential victims. I don’t leave my house open and then protest if I get robbed. I understand that it is my responsibility to ensure the safety of my belongings. If a couple of ruffians were to accost me, I doubt if I could do anything to save myself, let alone protect anyone else. Why have I never realized that it is the same issue? Rapists – and other small-time crooks – are bullies. And bullies are cowards. A little bit of competent resistance is all it would take to put them in their place. Why am I incapable of producing that resistance?

In times gone by, it used to be considered a man’s job to protect the women he cared about. We have outgrown those times. And that is good. So, can women protect themselves today? No. And neither can men! In both of the highly publicized cases in recent memory, the rape-victim was accompanied by a male, who couldn’t even help himself. Huh? Is this progress?

Dependence on state machinery has emasculated us. We think we can delegate all our responsibilities to the state and cry foul when the state doesn’t deliver. We are right to delegate the responsibilities of justice and investigation. But the responsibility of self-defense – like many other responsibilities – cannot be delegated. It is pointless to blame the state for not delivering on the responsibilities we delegate to it when we shirk our own.

It is ridiculous that we who call ourselves educated, have the time, money and inclination to buy gadgets, take holidays, and vent our feelings on social media, who cherish our freedom to do all these things, allow ourselves to be victimized by a bunch of ruffians who have none of these comforts. How difficult can it be to learn a little bit of self-defense?

No self-respecting able-bodied person (male or female) who cherishes his independence should tolerate such a state of affairs. Throughout history, whenever people have been called on to defend their country in a time of crisis, there has never been a lack of volunteers. Don’t we have enough self-respect to defend ourselves?

Advertisements

Delhi gang-rape: Some answers – 2

As I write this, the victim in the Delhi gang-rape case is no more. Despite the best efforts of the state to provide medical help.

The protests will continue and demands for capital punishment for rape will intensify. These demands are little more than an instinctive reaction. The first thing that came to my mind when I read about this case was: I would like to kill the perpetrators. Combine that thought with the inability to really do anything of the sort and the Indian habit of seeking a state solution for every problem, and the result is a demand for state action: Stricter laws, more policing, capital punishment.

Consider this report from Tehelka. It is titled: The rapes will go on. Along with some commentary, it describes the views held by senior police officers in and around Delhi. Most of the police officers believe that of the cases that are reported, most are not really rapes at all. That in itself, may not be surprising. Somewhere in the report there is a parenthetical reference to studies indicating that for every reported case of rape, more than 50 go unreported. Most genuine cases are perhaps never reported and the once that are fall through, given the attitude of the police officers. What is noteworthy (though not surprising) about the report is that the police primarily blame the dressing and behavior of the victims for the rise in rapes.

It is all too easy to demand things of the state. In this case, it might even seem right to demand that the state provide a safer environment. Crime is after all, a state subject. But the question that the protesters seem to be missing is: Can the state really do anything about it? Can it ensure that the police have the same outlook on our modern lifestyles that we do? Can it punish the perpetrators in cases that are never reported? Can it remove the stigma attached to rape?

But the state can indeed attempt to do the things the protesters want it to do. The state can create new laws (which will never be implemented, just as existing ones aren’t), it can allocate more funds to recruit more police (who will drink Chai at the corner shops and collect bribes from hapless non-rapists), it can declare capital punishment for rapes (further reducing the already dismal conviction rate). And clueless politicians who have no idea how to deal with the protests will indeed be too happy to to oblige.

Is this what we want?

Look below the surface and it is clear that the rising number of rapes (and other crimes against women) are social and cultural issues. The state is entirely powerless to do anything about these underlying issues.

Delhi gang-rape: Some answers – 1

Read my last post for context.

Severity:

Numbers are hard to come by but it appears that the number of reported cases has doubled in the last two decades.

Causes:

To determine why the number of rapes as against other crimes is increasing, it might be useful to distinguish between rapes that are perpetrated by ordinary criminals who cannot control their sexual desires and those that are perpetrated by seemingly normal men. The former category probably correlates with crime in general, it is a law and order issue. The latter category is the one that explains the rise and it is the one that is particularly worrying. This kind of rape has little or nothing to do with sexual desire. It is a reaction to women who dare to assert themselves. Recall that in the Delhi case, one of the accused admitted that he went berserk when the girl tried to resist the men and defend her friend who was being attacked. A woman asserting herself is unimaginable to those who still live by a traditional value system. What is this system? In this system:
A woman does not marry a man. She marries into the man’s family.
A woman does not marry by choice. She is given to another family (Think of Kanyadaan).
A woman is the property of her family.
The honor and status of the family is derived from the property it possesses.
A woman is honorable as long as she is untouched (unused) by anyone outside the family. (Think of Sita in Ramayan)
Sex is taboo unless it is between husband and wife.

To a man who who is steeped in these values, what is the worst he can do to a woman? Destroy her honor by using her sexually, rendering her unfit for use by anyone else. Hence rape.

Rapes of this kind are nothing new. They have been perpetrated by soldiers after winning a war and by rioters wanting to teach a lesson to members of a community they hate. What is frightening is that they are now being perpetrated by ordinary men against women who dare to challenge traditional values.

The typical profile of such a rapist is a man steeped in traditional values who resents the social changes that challenge his values in general and is angry enough by some act of resistance to forget common decency in a moment of madness.

The typical profile of a rape victim is simply any woman who dares to reject the traditional value system by choosing to marry against the rules of her village, wearing western clothes, going out with a boy friend, refusing to accept harassment, rejecting someone’s advances etc.

To be continued…

Delhi gang-rape: Some questions

Over the last few years I have experienced an alarming routine. Open the newspaper, read about rapes, stabbings, molestations and murders, shake my head and carry on with my life. The Delhi gang-rape is not the first and sadly will not be the last either. Perhaps it is just the sheer brutality of this case that sends a chill down my spine. Perhaps I have finally had enough. Regardless, it is time to attempt to make sense of what is happening around me. To ask some questions. To come up with some answers. Here are some questions that come to my mind.

Severity:

Is the number of rape cases increasing? Reported cases? Actual cases? As a fraction of the population?

Is the number of convictions for rape increasing? As a fraction of the reported cases? Actual cases?

Causes:

Is there something that most rapists have in common? Religion? Caste? Language? Region? Lack of education? Wealth? Power? Marital status? Social status? Age? Attitudes towards gender roles, sex, relationships, lifestyle? What (if any) is the typical profile of a rapist?

Is there something that most victims have in common? Religion? Caste? Language? Region? Education? Wealth? Power? Marital status? Social status? Age? Attitudes towards gender roles, sex, relationships, lifestyle? What (if any) is the typical profile of a rape victim?

Effectiveness:

Will increasing the penalty for rape reduce the number of crimes?

Will increasing the penalty for rape increase the number of convictions?

Will imposing the death penalty for rape increase the number of murders?

Will imposing restrictions / enacting new laws reduce the number of crimes?

Will imposing restrictions / enacting new laws make it easier to implement the laws?

Ethical questions:

Does a rapist deserve to live?

Should rape be punishable by death? (Note that this is not the same as the previous question)

What kind of restrictions are acceptable (assuming they are effective)? (Example: If women are banned from all public places, the number of rapes would go down. Would that be acceptable?)

%d bloggers like this: