Criminals vindicated

Published: July 7, 2014
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The writer is a sub editor for the Opinions & Editorial pages of The Express Tribune 
faiza.rahman@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a sub editor for the Opinions & Editorial pages of The Express Tribune faiza.rahman@tribune.com.pk

It takes a special kind of crazy to utter a public rape threat, particularly in a country which has some spine-chilling rape figures. Nonetheless, it happened. Indian MP Tapas Pal threatened to “let loose his boys” who will then go and rape the women of some political party whose male members did something he didn’t quite take a fancy to. No idea what. The ‘statesman’ — if he merits being called thus at all — later retracted, saying that he threatened not to rape but “raid” the women. That makes for some awkward grammar. But okay, sure.

After being properly fried by a number of journalists, Pal made a sorry attempt to furnish an apology, insisting that the comment was made in the “heat and dust” of an election campaign. So are we to understand that words auguring such unthinkable horrors were lurking so loosely on the lips of a well-statured politician? That he publicly made jest out of a barbarity which some would deem worse than death? If such goat-droppings of wisdom manage to see the light of the day, what monstrosities would be at play in the dark privacies of the mind? Little solace can be derived from that fact that in the past couple of weeks, both India and Pakistan have witnessed some of the most sickening rape incidents. In Layyah, Vehari, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. As public sensitivities stumbled to regain composure, a few politicians made the blood writhe and coil all over again; rape is right in some cases, insisted Babulal Gaur, the home minister of Madhya Pradesh while a certain Mulayam Singh Yadav’s two dastardly cents on the subject were that “boys will be boys”.

So a murderer will be a murderer and a robber will be a robber and a suicide bomber will be a suicide bomber? And we can just laugh off these dear little oddities that people have and go home and shiver in bed with fright and stow all our women away from sight? What utter nonsense is that? And what, if you please, are the auspicious instances when rape is the morally correct choice? Does a ‘hot and dusty’ scuffle in the streets with some of the ‘boys’ of a rival political party qualify as such an instance? Do such statements not promise a sympathetic leverage to rapists? How many more men will continue to make victims of women owing to their own half-wittedness? The politicians’ statements aren’t words that will be forgotten; they are the nods of approval for tomorrow’s culprits. God knows how much more will have to be written and spoken to undo such depravity.

Rape apologists are a problem that we are constantly understating. In a region where sex crime seems to be rooted in people’s consciousness, statements that trivialise rape are not a trivial affair. Be it property disagreements, a love marriage, clan rivalry or whatever other business, somehow crimes against women are always the answer, always on the lips of men, always on their minds. The most popular of cuss words in Urdu and Hindi wreak havoc on a woman’s honour. On traffic signals, in the markets, at banks, in offices, during casual conversations with friends, it seems as if no scores can be settled unless an X-rated, particularly brazen image of the female body is not conjured.

Even for spells when rape incidents do not occur, women in not just India or Pakistan but all over the world, continuously live in the shadows of what is called a ‘rape culture’, nurtured by this very attitude that sympathises with the culprit but puts the victim through the wringer. Some of our women scale the highest mountains and fight the bloodiest wars, all in the wake of a stifling psychological pressure that comes with being constantly vulnerable to someone else’s demons. While she goes through the usual professional grind, it is an added chore for her that all responsibilities must be carried out within the confines of a fussy, maidenly scruple — a ‘rape proof’ lifestyle. Don’t work late, don’t wear that, don’t walk like that, don’t sit like that, don’t talk like that, don’t meet him alone, don’t go in the streets in the dark. Young girls are taught to internalise a solemn resign, to be cowered, to be ashamed of their bodies. Don’t sprawl your legs, don’t play with boys, don’t smile at strangers. The message is never ‘don’t rape’, it’s always ‘don’t get raped’.

But no matter how many rape cases occur in the country or anywhere else in the world, the information space in Pakistan will continue to be monopolised by selective issues. There is no discourse to address the rape culture — largely because this kind of ‘culture’ does not have a defined material manifestation and we refuse to be sensitive to what we can’t see; or because rape, on account of being a ‘social issue’, rests low on the editorial hierarchy, a flippant filler for the inside pages on a slow news day maybe; or because we generally like to lie by silence, as we do on a number of other issues which beg our ears and words.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Hafsa
    Jul 8, 2014 - 12:17AM

    Very thought provoking piece not to mention very well-written as well!!! Glad the writer pointed out that the rape culture is not just a problem in developing countries but all over the world. The message needs to sink in fast.

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  • Moiz Omar
    Jul 8, 2014 - 3:11PM

    People who excuse rape should be ashamed of themselves.

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  • Mega
    Jul 8, 2014 - 5:03PM

    @moiz. They make such excuses because leaders of such states don’t want to take onus or responsibility on their shoulder for deteriorating law and order situation in their state and resign. Best way fir them is to deflect it,deny it,call it conspiracy or be an apologist ,pacifist to avoid political credibility damage and keep their money looting corrupt govt alive. They don’t realise in long term it causes more damage as public never forgets and throw such nonsense govt out.

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  • Gp65
    Jul 8, 2014 - 10:36PM

    Rape is a heinous crime. Indian media and civil society have made it very clear by their responses to actual events of gang rape or even when rather rich and powerful have been accused of molestation be it a powerful editor, a self certified religious guru or a retired judge. Politicians who have made loose statements have been condemned across the board regardless of whether they were from Congress, BJP, SP or TMC and their parties have had to disown the statements. The fact that some still make such statements shows that they simply are not in tune with the mood of the Indian public on this issue. They will pay a political price for that.

    Already people are demanding and getting policy responses to rape in India. The outdated British era law on sexual harassment and rape have already been updated. Further plans are afoot to establish holistic 660 rape crisis centres ( one per district) which provide one stop support for the victim be it legal, medical or emotional counselling. This sends a strong signal that the state stands with the rape victim.

    So while things are not perfect by any means Ma’m, they are moving in the right direction in India. We have a long way to go but we are on the march and will not stop until the desination is reached i.e. the likelihood of a rapist being convicted is much higher than before, the stigma is no longer attached to the rape victim and her family but the rapist and his family and the rape victim can lead a life of dignity without any shame. A time where parents are as concerned aout the dignified conduct of their sons as they are about the modest dress of their daughters.

    But what I am surprised about is that while the author sees fit to gove all these examples about India, she did not speak about the fact that there has been 0% conviction rate for rapes in Pakistan. http://tribune.com.pk/story/728949/zero-conviction-rate-for-rape-senator-proposes-constitutional-changes/ and that Council of Islamic Ideology insists that evidence of 4 good Muslim men has to be primary evidence in a rape case. http://www.dawn.com/news/1044879 since this almost impossible to get, there is no hope of a conviction which coupled with the stima of rape significantly drives down the reporting of rape. Who would want the stigma of a rape when there is no hope of getting justice? There is also one very pernicious type of rape that is peculiar to Pakistan. Kidnapping, raping and then forcibly converting minor non-Muslim girls. About 1000 such cases occur each year. Then of course there is Vanni and Karo kari which are also manifestations of rape.

    So Madam, in India the civil society and India have joined the battle against rape. Please focus on what is going on in your own country. It is not a pretty picture. Also just because Indian media and civil society are making a big deal about rapes and for reasons I already underlined , rapes in Pakistan are significantly underreported and when reported do not get similar coverage, does not mean that actual proportion of rapes in Pakistan is much fewer.

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  • Beta
    Jul 8, 2014 - 10:51PM

    This is some very bold and important writing. Agree with Moiz that these so called leaders should be ashamed.

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  • It's (still) Economy Stupid
    Jul 8, 2014 - 11:21PM

    Any pro-rape comments are not funny period. All sexual crimes are about power and less about sex. This is why people in power make stupid remarks and should be held accountable to a higher standard due to their seat in the power.

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  • HR
    Jul 9, 2014 - 7:03PM

    Completely agree with the writer! Really good piece of writing! Seems like Rape isn’t even on the priority list let alone being a low priority!

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  • Muhammad Saeed
    Jul 30, 2014 - 8:30PM

    I had a question in my mind for sometime. How does one establish ‘rape’ as a ‘crime’, independent of ‘public opinion’, or ‘social sentiments’? To consider it a ‘crime’… is it not another form of ‘social construction’. If so, then declaring ‘rape’ as ‘criminal’ is as irrational and ill-founded as those who consider it their ‘birth-right’…

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  • Muhammad Saeed
    Jul 30, 2014 - 8:37PM

    @It’s (still) Economy Stupid:

    Dear Stupid Economy. I wanted to ask you something. If one declares a certain form of sexual activity as criminal, isn’t that also about power? Why is consent necessary… what is the point of consent? And what do you make of stoning wives who cheat?

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