RAPE culture? Really? Is that even a term, you may ask… Sadly, yes, there is such a term now and we are in the thick of it.
The goal of talking about ‘rape culture’ is much more than just reducing the frequency with which sexual assault occurs or the impunity that allows it to flourish, because the problems at the root of such a culture are much bigger than that.
Rape culture has its roots in long-standing patriarchal power structures that were designed to benefit men. Today’s rape culture burdens men too; for instance, by ignoring the fact that men can be victims of rape and sexual assault, and women can be perpetrators of it. That means that male victims are also left without legal protection and social support.
Rape culture pressures women to sacrifice their freedom and opportunities in order to stay safe, because it puts the burden of safety on their shoulders, and blames them when they don’t succeed. When women give up social and economic opportunities in order to stay safe, it affects their overall progress, which in turn affects society’s progress.
The term ‘rape culture’ was originally coined in the 1970s. The term appeared in Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women, published by the New York Radical Feminists Collective in 1974, and was explored in depth in the 1975 documentary Rape Culture. Blaming victims doesn’t just fail to prevent rape – it constrains women’s lives and limits their opportunities .The result of all this, unsurprisingly, is an environment in which rape is common, victims are silenced, and rapists are not punished. But there is a less obvious, more pernicious consequence as well: rape culture polices women’s lives, constraining their freedom and limiting their opportunities.
When the burden of avoiding sexual assault is placed upon women, it essentially grants sexual predators the power to set boundaries upon women’s lives. Those who don’t, are held responsible for their own fate.
Rape culture allows rape to flourish. But it also makes it hard to measure, which itself makes rape more common still.
Stigma, victim-blaming, and the (often correct) assumption that reporting a rape to law enforcement won’t result in prosecution, make many victims reluctant to come forward, which contributes to underreporting. Stereotypes about what constitutes a ‘real’ rape affect the definitions used in data gathering: if the crime is defined too narrowly, then some rapes won’t show up in the statistics.
The rape culture pyramid that you see with this article shows how behaviours, beliefs and systems are built in conjunction with one another. The tolerance of behaviour at each level supports or excuses the behaviour at the next level. The normalisation of sexist behaviour like locker room banter and rape jokes lead to catcalling, stalking, which can lead to unsolicited nudes which then leads to degradation of the victim through groping, safe-word violation, coercion and manipulation, victim-blaming and shaming, ultimately leading to assault, molestation, drugging, rape and in many cases, murder.
- The worrying numbers:
Just notice the sexual violence pandemic in India:
- Rape cases doubled in the last 17 years. And Kashmir’s crisis is that it has seen a sharp rise in rape and child sex abuse. The crime graph in Srinagar as per a 2023 data shows a worrying trend for women and children.
- As per the police, in the last almost seven months, the Srinagar district of Jammu and Kashmir has reported five rapes, 12 sexual offences against children, 105 molestations and 36 women kidnapped in 2023 so far.
- The district witnessed a mixed rate of cases regarding crimes against women in the ongoing the year 2023 as compared to the previous one.
- The cases of ‘cruelty by husbands’ have seen a steep surge as the authorities at the helm feel “the women folk are feeling more secure and protected vis-à-vis registration of complaints now”.
- Just notice some of the news pieces:
- In Srinagar, a 46-year-old man is arrested for raping a 15-year-old girl .The accused is a relative of the child. FIR no 92/2023 U/S 352, 376, 506 IPC & 3/4 POCSO act in PS Safakadal.
- In Srinagar, the police arrest a rapist from Barzulla, aged 22, for raping a 12-year-old girl. The accused is a close relative of the victim. FIR no 56/2023 under Sections 5, 6 of the POCSO Act registered at Sadar PS.
- Again in Srinagar, a man is arrested for harassing a college girl online. FIR no 64/2023 under Sections 354, 354A, 354 D , 506,509 of the IPC registered in Nishat PS.”
– Yet again in Srinagar, a man is arrested for allegedly killing his sister-in-law after she resisted his rape attempt in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir. The man reveals that his sister-in-law was alone at home and he tried to take advantage of the situation to exploit her sexually. The police, after completing medico legal proceedings, slaps Section 174 CrPC to ascertain the cause of the death.
– In Srinagar, two persons involved in kidnapping and sexually assaulting minor girls arrested. Both the girls – aged between 12 and 13 – were rescued and an FIR (number 41/2023) under Section 363, 376 of the Indian Penal code (IPC) and (3) (penetrative sexual assault ) under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) registered against the accused at Srinagar’s Lal Bazar police station.
- The district witnessed a mixed rate of cases regarding ‘crimes against women’ in a little over seven months of the ongoing year as compared to the previous. Under ‘Kidnapping of Women’, it saw 42 in 2020, 83 in 2021, 116 in 2022 and 36 in the ongoing year so far.
- Under ‘cruelty by husband’, the district saw 47 cases in 2020, 41 in 2021, 70 in 2022 and 54 in the ongoing year so far.
- The cases under ‘dowry death’ saw zero case in 2020, 1 each in 2021 and 2022 and no such case has been reported in the district in the ongoing year so far.
“We have a zero-tolerance on crime against women, and whosoever is found involved in any such crime will be dealt with strictly as per law,” says a police officer.
- ‘Rape is a choice’
“Rape is a choice. Rapists choose to rape… We just don’t want to think about the uncomfortable truth that a rapist is just a guy, any guy, who rapes. This is no man-hating feminazi. This is someone whose unique experiences make her compassionate and sensitive to nuance and the understanding that this is a complicated conversation. It’s difficult to muster up wholesale abhorrence of all abusers. They are so aggravatingly human,” says Dr Suneem Khan, Medical Officer, Central Reserve Police Force.
The increase in rape cases in Kashmir is worrying and needs immediate attention. It is important to analyze the underlying causes and take measures to prevent such incidents in the future. Education plays an important role. Providing comprehensive education about consent, gender equality and promoting respectful relationships is key to creating a safer environment.
By educating men and women, we can foster a culture of mutual understanding, empathy and respect. It is important that civil society organisations and law enforcement agencies work together to address this issue. By raising awareness, enforcing the law, and establishing support systems for survivors, we can strive to create a society where everyone feels safe and protected.