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September 21, 2020

Putting an end to rape


September 21, 2020

\In the face of the high-profile gang-rape a few days ago, different cultural, societal, institutional, and ideological debates surfaced. These have always been imbibed in Pakistan’s national thought but as responses to such heinous criminal atrocity, these were not only unsuitable but also basically perpetuate the culture of rape.

Men took on to habitually mansplain women and the nation about rape and rape punishment on every platform: be it parliament, talk-shows, or social media. It is quite amusing and infuriating (simultaneously) to see TV panels full of men with little to none female representation discussing women’s issues and how to cope with them. A popular quick-fix was incorporated into the Twitter trend ‘Hang The Rapist’ and men of the nation decided that this will be the punishment for criminals. Our prime minister, after many days of the crime, showed up on a TV show and joined the bandwagon suggesting chemical castration as a better idea according to him.

The punishment of gang-rape is a death sentence already but the demand in recent days has been for the hanging of the rapist publically. This, of course, has nothing to do with women and what they would deem appropriate, but no one asked or cares about how women feel and what women want.

This tendency of getting excited about the idea of public hanging serves masculine tendencies of aggression. On one side, aggression is directed towards a woman and on the other, it is redirected onto an xyz rapist. Both are for male amusement. The fact that they deem women incapable of deciding for themselves is one of the supreme causes of the problem of rampant sexual crimes in the country.

Which brings us to: why men rape. Castration suggests that they do it because they have a sexual organ and if you rid them of it, they will be put to rest. However, rape doesn’t stem out of sexual needs but out of the need for power and control. In nations, the culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity breeds rape culture. Rape is just a symptom of the disease called patriarchy, misogyny, and toxic masculinity.

The major factor behind sexual assault or gender assault is inherent misogyny. Women only exist in two forms for such men, either man is the owner of a woman or a woman is a sexual object. If she is not your property, as a stranger then she is a sexual object. And when she is your property, you have all rights over her, even sexual ones. Think of incestuous rape which accounts for 82 percent of rape cases in Pakistan and remember these are highly underreported statistics. These men who rape deem women as inferiors, and even less than humans; hence by raping them, they put women into their place they have decided for them in their perception. This is why rapists have zero percent empathy for the victim because empathy is due to humans, not objects.

Rape is a depiction of power, dominance, anger, revenge all wrapped up in sexuality. Some men in patriarchal cultures rape women out of revenge because women are deemed as property, and the honour of men and families is placed in a woman’s privates.

All such instances show only one thing – the denial of woman’s agency, autonomy (also sexual), and humanity! Same is the case with the third sex. This is why only this is the antidote to rape. When you give a woman her rights given to her by the religion and the constitution, see a woman as an equal human being and not as an inferior being for your amusement or for power and control by dominating sexually, you halt rape culture. The objectification and sexualization of women aid the rape culture to stand upright. Harassment needs to be seen from women’s perspective. It may be men’s idea of fun but normalization of these ideas and habits transform into a culture of rape. Until there is a change in how men perceive a woman, no punishment is capable of terminating the rape culture.

The conviction rate of rapists is less than three percent so with this level of impunity before looking at the punishment, the system needs reforms on every level of the procedure. We need sensitive and empathetic women officials free of rape apology, victim-blaming, and shaming to provide investigative services. The police reforms that we were promised are needed badly. Even in this recent case, the role of the police has been highly questionable.

A major part totally missing in the process is the mental, psychological, and emotional help for the survivor. Judicial reforms are most desperately needed to eradicate the major factor of impunity for the abuser. Rape cases go on for years on end while the abuser is out on bail and the survivor is threatened and traumatized to forgive by police, the judiciary and family alike; also, given the high cost of legal help, cases go on for years.

The fact that there can be a compromise on such a crime is immensely problematic in itself. Many survivors kill themselves not due to the primary crime but because of the devastating aftermath that follows. It is impertinent to mention the ruthless attitude of authorities towards a traumatized human who is questioned again and again for details that are too heart-shattering for the survivor to speak about repeatedly.

Lastly, chemical castration is in no way a solution. After castrating, when the abuser is sent back into society and that too without years of psychological treatment, he will come out far more violent and this time with a purpose. A misogynistic man who has been castrated because of a woman will be many times more violent towards women than ever before. Rape is not prevented by castration.

Let’s just face it; there are no shortcuts or quick fixes to societal pandemics. As much as men would like to jeer as spectators on the sort of act of aggression they suggest such as public hanging, they need to be silent, step aside and let women come forward with their voices, and listen to understand and empathize. This is about women’s safety and only they know where and what kind of change is needed because they face harassment on a daily basis. As stated in the beginning, stop mansplaining and gaslighting women about what they need. They know their needs, rights, and voice them every day. If you wish to help end the rape culture, you need to change patriarchy and replace it with equality and misogyny with empathy. The ones who are not actively participating in the prevalence of such culture are supporting it passively by allowing it. I say: to ignore it is to allow it and to allow it is to accept it.

Sexual assault is not a natural disaster that just happens out of nowhere. A man rapes a woman or a transgender person or a child or even a male. And he rapes because the patriarchy, misogyny and culture of rape facilitate him. His intent is further strengthened and encouraged by impunity and the loopholes in the procedures respectively.

Rapes cannot be prevented without killing the rape culture and its sources. Hence, there are only three steps that help this issue. First, an end of the rape culture by an end of its sources. Second, reforms, reforms, reforms and third, prevalence of law and order, and implementation.

The writer is pursuing a psychotherapy license, and working in the media.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @farwanaqvi_