This may appear to be a little extreme, but let this nut-head explain
A five-year-old girl was brutally raped in Lahore on Thursday and was found dumped outside Ganga Ram Hospital around 8 pm on Friday. The very next day a 12-year-old girl in Faisalabad and another first year student in Toba Tek Singh were gang raped. This was followed by another gang rape of a 15-year-old girl yesterday in Tharparkar. Last year 7,516 cases of violence against women were reported in Pakistan with 822 of them being rape cases. And anyone who’s familiar with the perverted concept of ‘honour’ in our country knows that 822 is a sorry fraction of the actual number.
While there is universal condemnation of the acts that would run the entire gamut from dubbing it any degree of ‘wrong’ to protesting on social media or even streets, there’s a criminal dearth of noise or endeavour with regards to actually deracinating the root cause behind rape: the reprehensible image of women.
Every individual who propagates the deplorable myth that women are inherently dependent on or weaker than men is a rape accomplice. Every person who scorns at a girl for not catering to their definition of decency is a rape accomplice. Anyone who is a flag-bearer of double standards of modesty for men and women is a rape accomplice. Everyone who teaches women to be ashamed of their bodies is a rape accomplice. And if your respect for a woman is dependent on how well covered her body is, then you sir/ma’am, are a rape accomplice as well.
While this might appear to be a little ‘extreme’, let this nut-head explain his stance.
An accomplice is ‘a person who helps another commit a crime’. And while most of us won’t directly provide a rapist the aid that he needs to commit his monstrous crime, by propagating the aforementioned ideals we definitely help him unleash the loathsome ‘beast’ inside him.
Answer this: who would have more of a tendency towards rape, a man who’s told that a woman not dressed up in synchrony with (insert any cultural/social/religious/individual standard of modesty) is dishonourable, or a man who’s told that how a woman chooses to dress up should be no one else’s concern, regardless of whether she’s wearing a burqa or a bikini?
Now answer this: who would have more inclination towards physically abusing a ‘party girl’ who’s drunk and has ‘many male friends’, a man who’s taught that women must follow a different set of morals as compared to men, or a man who’s taught gender equality in every single aspect of life?
And finally answer this: who has more of a chance to become a rapist, a man who lives in a society where a woman’s respect has got nothing to do with her body or a man who lives in a society where a woman not following a certain ‘dress code’ is dubbed an open lollipop inviting flies and insects?
Maybe in an abhorrent fit of ‘bestiality’, your son might not particularly mind temporarily being one of those insects.
Now a rather appalling flipside to this argument is that if the women are forced to dress up according to the ‘socially acceptable’ standards, men wouldn’t plunge to the lower echelons of humanity and that any woman who isn’t dressed up ‘properly’ or doesn’t ‘guard her modesty’ is actually ‘asking to be raped’.
First of all, in my very humble opinion, in an ideal world any person who says that any woman who’s raped, under any circumstances whatsoever, was ‘asking for it’, is ‘asking’ to be beaten up publicly. Secondly, as a man myself, I find men’s portrayal as a sex-hungry ‘monsters’ who lose their control at the sight of a woman’s skin, pretty hard to digest.
Let’s set the record straight. A woman not covering her head isn’t ‘asking for it’; one wearing a bikini isn’t ‘asking for it’ and yes, one who might not be wearing anything at all is still not ‘asking for it’. Those that justify rape under any circumstance shouldn’t merely be dubbed rape apologists but should instead be called rape accomplices and should share a fraction of guilt for every rape where the victim was ostensibly ‘asking for it’.
The myth that the hijab, burqa, or following a particular definition of modesty protects women is busted by the fact that in a recent BBC report it was revealed that 99.3 per cent of Egyptian women had experienced harassment, while the rate of sexual offenses in Saudi Arabia is 58.6 per 100,000 and Qatar and UAE have rates of 1.7 reported cases of rape per 100,000 population. Also, when 5-year-olds and 7-year-olds are being raped, it’s obviously not a case of what’s atop the woman’s head, more a case of what’s inside the man’s head. And those who want to flaunt the fact that forcing a woman to wear the hijab reduces the chances of her being raped, should know that those chances would be further reduced if you lock her up in a cupboard and throw away the key.
Rape cannot be prevented by forcing women to cover up, it can only be prevented by women empowerment, promotion of gender equality and the eradication of antediluvian myths that teach us how women are men’s property who must keep a watch on them and control them. When it is stated or implied that women are men’s property and that the latter have an upper-hand over the former, you’re cultivating a ground for rapists to grow. And everyone who plays even the most minor of roles in the cultivation should be called a rape accomplice.
Not only are we all rape accomplices because we promote the aforementioned ideals, but our law is quite possibly the grandest of all rape accomplices, since it doesn’t consider DNA as primary evidence in rape cases in the year 2013 AD. Furthermore, by asking for four witnesses – who can only be dubbed the closest of collaborators, since they preferred watching a woman being abused than preventing the act – it’s almost as if we’ve created a social and judicial setup to facilitate rapists.
Merely screaming bloody murder over a heinous act won’t suffice in its eradication, and propagating the West’s rape statistics won’t particularly help the cause in our neck of the woods, where rape is criminally misreported and prevails despite us purging our society from ‘Western evils’. To actually reduce rape, every single one of us must ask ourselves if we’ve ever, intentionally or inadvertently, promoted misogynistic ideals or tried to justify rape under any circumstances. If the answer to those questions is in the affirmative, we’ve all played a part in the physical and mental trauma of every raped woman in our society.
The writer is a financial journalist and a cultural critic. Email: [email protected],