Break the taboo of rape from society

Disgracefully, for years, rape has been considered as a property crime. Men treated women as their property and, being aggressors, they used their organ as a weapon against women, to suppress them

Monira Nazmi Jahan Mar 15, 2020

Disgracefully, for years, rape has been considered as a property crime. Men treated women as their property and, being aggressors, they used their organ as a weapon against women, to suppress them. Until and unless men stop treating women as sexual objects, this heinous crime cannot be controlled.

The word "rape" literally means forcible seizure and the simplest definition of rape is having sexual intercourse with a woman/girl without her consent. Therefore, rape can be said to be forcefully ravishing a woman or child without her consent.
According to Cesare Beccaria, the father of modern criminology, and Jeremy Bentham, people commit crimes after weighing the pain and pleasure. The punishment for rape is life imprisonment but their numbers are increasing drastically because punishment is not rendered promptly.

What are the societal factors that have driven a person to commit rape? An article by Larry Baron and Murray A. Straus provides some answers. According to them, there are four variables of rape which constitute micro-sociological theories of rape: (1) gender inequality; (2) circulation of pornography; (3) culturally legitimate violence; and (4) social disorganization.

In gender inequality, rape functions as a mechanism of social control in patriarchal societies. Feminists argue that rape and the fear of rape enable men to assert their power over women and maintain the existing system of gender stratification. Society would consider women as only a reproductive system and societal norms associated with expressions of masculinity, such as domination and aggression, encourage men to sexually exploit women.
Regarding pornography, some feminists theorize that pornography causes men to rape women. As sexism and male dominance are depicted and celebrated in pornography, such images of women as objects of sexual exploitation tend to promote and legitimise male sexual violence. Additionally, pornography sexually objectifies women, which entails the fragmentation of a woman's body and eroticization of her body parts. Also, pornography dehumanizes and degrades women, glamorizes violence, and legitimises sexism. The sad part is that pornography is circulated as a message that women enjoy being coerced, brutalized, and raped.

Marital disruption, divorce and socially accepted violence are causes of rape, according to the theory of social disorganization and cultural support for violence. When society practices and generalises violence, for example corporal punishment in schools, mass media violence, and governmental use of violence, then offences such as rape increase.

According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, psychological depravity in a person due to his physical defects and incapacities also plays a vital role in criminality. Thus persons who face ridicule because of their physical deformities tend to commit more crimes frequently. Likewise, persons with ugly appearances, who suffer from an inferiority complex, indulge in sexual offences due to hatred and indifference. Consequently, they generate revengeful attitudes towards women to achieve what they want, which they could not otherwise get through legitimate means. Besides physical defects, unsuccessful marital life or loss of partner causes frustration, anger and emotional disturbance that can culminate in such delinquency.

Additionally, alcohol and drug addictions are also causes of criminality. Drug addiction raises the urge of sexual gratification. Therefore, several rapists commit rape because of their alcoholism and addiction.

In 1979, Nicholas Groth published “Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender,” where he identified rape as an aggressive act, which constitutes “a discharge of anger. It becomes evident that rape is the way the offender expresses and discharges a state of intense anger, frustration, resentment and rage”. Groth first presented the idea that rape has three main components: power, anger and sexuality, resulting in four rapist types.

In anger rape, sexuality becomes a hostile act. Here the rapist uses rape to degrade or humiliate women, and is abusive. These attacks are often prompted by some marital conflict, occupational or financial problem. In power rape, sexuality is an expression of conquest, to establish masculine identity. The perpetrator is also likely to kidnap the victim for repeated assaults over an extended period of time. In sadistic rape, there is a fusion between violence and sex wherein anger and power become eroticized. The sadistic rapist often uses torture or bondage to experience sexual arousal over the victim's suffering, frequently targets prostitutes or women who symbolize something he wants to destroy or punish. The opportunistic rapists often rape and meet nonsexual needs. Essentially, they are adventure-seeking, impulsive, and recreational offenders.  

Another classic characterization of rapists is the contrast between unselfish and selfish rapists. The unselfish rapist often exhibits verbal, sexual, or physical behaviour all in a way that indicates concern for the victim. They usually do so to convince the victim to cooperate. The selfish rapist, however, does not desire the victim to become involved at all. This type of rapist is derogatory toward the victim. They will use the victim's body the same way as one uses a prop, a doll or a mannequin. Conversation between the rapist and the offender throughout the event will be consistently threatening and sexual in nature.

Laws are there to punish offenders. However, laws alone cannot control this inhuman crime. Society at large should change its outlook towards women. The conception that rape tarnishes the reputation of women should be changed. The media should not portray anything that objectifies women as a sexual object. Use of drugs should be strictly prohibited and punished.

It is high time that the taboo of rape should be broken. Different agencies of society should work together to uproot the crime from every corner of Bangladesh and South Asia. Importantly, theories and concepts of criminology and victimology should reflect in laws.

(The writer is a senior lecturer, Department of Law, East West University, Bangladesh)

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