May 19, 2013

Women, Not Things

In the context of the brutal raping and murder last year of a 23-year old women on a bus to the disgusting rape of a 5-year girl more recently in India, the Wall Street Journal (17 May 2013) has an article on "To Wed Your Rapist, or Not: Indian Women on Trial."

It is an eye-opening article about the prejudices and horrible injustices that women face in India and other countries--and it's not only due to the misogyny of some, and power- and pleasure-seeking of others, but it is based also on justices, lawyers, law enforcement, legislators, and spiritual figures in society that perpetuate the oppression of woman. 

Some societies are stacking the deck, so women cannot reasonably win due protection--from legislators who do not write and pass substantive and equitable laws to protect women, to law enforcement that will not commit the resources to pursue the rapists and women beaters, to lawyers and judges that raise ridiculous demands for proving guilt and sentencing, and to spiritual leaders that blame the victim rather than hold the perpetrators to task. 

These people who are supposed to bring justice to the victims, instead add insult to injury. Some of these include:

- Ruling against rape victims because they didn't successfully fight back. For example, a "lower court ruled that she was lying citing among other things the fact that she could have scratched the man's genitals, but didn't."

- Professing that victims are at fault for causing the rape, such as by wearing skirts, having male friends (i.e. "asking for it"), or otherwise dressing or behaving immodestly. At the extreme, one prominent spiritual figure actually held that the victim could've avoided trouble if she had "chanted a prayer, taken one of her attackers by the hand, and called him 'brother'"--as if one can convince an attacker not to attack by holding their hands and gushing brotherhood.

- Teaching that rape is not possible for strong women or those of a labor caste. A 2005 textbook stated, "In normal circumstances, it is not possible for a single man to hold sexual intercourse with a healthy adult female in full possession of her senses against her will." Oh, really? I doubt these teachers would like to test this hypothesis on their beloved mothers, sisters, wives, or daughters.

In Indian and other societies where women are so degraded, there is a standing notion of a rape victim having to marry their rapist--to make things right. Yet, how can this resolve anything? As if the incident of rape is not enough, the victim must endure a lifetime of rape--and by an individual without character or soul, who could commit such a brutal, violent act to begin with. 

Forcing the victim to marry the rapist does not spare a woman the challenge of marrying normally after such an traumatic act, but rather it precludes her from ever having an opportunity to rid herself of the pain and shame, and go on to be with someone who truly loves and respects her as a person, and not an object. 

As long as societies marginalize women through their beliefs, teachings, and systems of injustice, women will not be spared the agonizing harm they suffer by men who abuse their status of power. But as the old saying goes, "what goes around, comes around,"--what is incredible is that so many of these people just see it going, but don't see it coming. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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