Rape is a heinous and punishable act against a human being and is condemned as such all over the world – regardless of culture and religion.
However, the way societies react to it does not reflect this simple logic. In many cases, people are either irrational or the opposite - desensitized.
Here are some examples:
A 32-year-old suspected rapist was dragged from a bar in Cape Town, beaten with sticks and stoned to death in a case of vigilante justice. No one waited for a legal verdict or even a trial.
In India girl raped by a middle-aged man was ordered by her community’s council to marry the rapist's 8-year-old son. She was raped a second time by the same man while negotiations between the council and the girl’s family were taking place.
In both instances the way the brutal crime was dealt with was anything but rational.
Mukhtaran Mai, a Pakistani survivor of a 2002 gang rape, was shunned for refusing to back down in seeking justice. She was targeted by both the media and politicians for ‘tarnishing’ her country’s name, as her story was highlighted on the international stage.
Mai’s case went on till 2011 when her alleged rapists were acquitted by the court and were received at home with great celebrations.
What these examples show is that something as heinous as rape, which if considered rationally should be abhorred and the victim given full support is in many cases dealt with in the opposite way.
This mindset is not exclusive to developing or less ‘civilized’ societies. Even ‘respected’ senators, such as Republican Todd Akins, have made bizarre statements about Rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,”Akins said during the lead up to the 2012 Presidential Elections.
Do these sound like the words of an educated citizen of a country that is considered to be a world power?
In addition to irrational and bizarre reactions, the way societies often judge the victims makes no sense.
People often demonize the victim and place the blame for the act on her.
In 2011, unable to control several unsolved sexual assaults in the Brooklyn area, police officers resorted to stopping women on the street asking them to be careful in what they were wearing.
Rape is either an act of shame to be brushed under the carpet or people try to rationalize (find excuses) the crime rather than focusing on how to prevent it.
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In India there were 1,559 reported cases of rape in 2013, compared to 680 in 2012, a study says. It goes on to indicate that in 97% of the cases, the accused are known to the victims. Clearly, prevention is not being effectively addresses, as rape cases in India have increased by 70% in the last three years.
A recent study in the United States showed the average number of rape cases reported in the US annually were 89,000 out of which 38% of the victims were raped by someone they knew and 28% by a spouse or a lover.
A recent study shows majority of rape cases in Salt Lake County have never been prosecuted.
In Pakistan, a total of 103 rape cases were registered in the capital city of Islamabad between January 1, 2008 to November 11, 2013. None of the accused has yet been convicted.
If rape is a tragedy, the way it is dealt with is even more so.