- Victim blaming is not the solution
The increasing number of rape cases across the country has triggered a debate about why there is a precipitous increase in sexual assault and rape. A small but influential segment of society believes that the victims are blamed for their lack of so-called modesty and purity. Such insensitive comments about rape victims always evoke harsh reactions from society’s broad parts, and rightly so. Still, there is a prevailing thought in these societal segments that the women who are raped or sexually assaulted are responsible for crimes committed against them.
Women who venture outside the confines of their homes are considered to be lacking modesty and therefore invite the perpetrators to commit sexual crimes against them. In a patriarchal society like Pakistan, victim-blaming is frequently used to tell women that they should remain within the walls of their homes to prevent rape, sexual assault or harassment committed against them. This utterly flawed argument neglects that acquaintances commit most of the sexual crimes and these crimes occur either at home or near the vicinity.
Men have to call out these false narratives built on the misleading interpretations of religion and cultural norms to eradicate gender biases. They need to be sensitized regarding the issues faced by the other gender.
Another fallacious argument is that the so-called westernization and exposure to obscene content on the internet and television are responsible for a sharp rise in sexual crimes. Many websites and social media applications have been banned on the pretext that these platforms disseminate indecent content. As if denying access to these platforms will eradicate sexual crimes in our society.
These misconceptions will continue to be peddled unless we understand that sexual crimes are not about sex and lust alone. Research by psychologists and sociologists have shown that sexual crimes are all about power. Perpetrators of these crimes involve in such crimes to assert their so-called male authority. In the layered structure of violence, women have to go through an extra layer of sexual violence. Regardless of their class or social capital, a majority of women have to go through this ordeal one way or another.
If the problem’s root cause is identified correctly, meaningful interventions could eradicate the problem. If we continue to blame victims and lay the responsibility of sexual crimes on the door of so-called obscenity and vulgarity, it will only increase such crimes. Sexual crimes like rape affect the victim, but the whole family goes through the trauma, and most of the time, this trauma is transmitted to the next generations. Such crimes have far-reaching social and psychological effects. Therefore, eradication of these crimes needs multi-faceted approaches.
It is appropriate for more structural problems to be identified so that purposeful interventions should be made. The power structure, which is tilted heavily against women, has to be adjusted to be treated as an equal citizen. Equal opportunities in education, employment, health, and politics would lead to women’s emancipation in the real sense.
Men also need to be educated that women are equal human beings, and they are not supposed to play as second fiddle to men. Men have to call out these false narratives built on the misleading interpretations of religion and cultural norms to eradicate gender biases. They need to be sensitized regarding the issues faced by the other gender. Co-Education is also considered against our religious and cultural values and is responsible for promoting youth indecency. But the reality is different. When boys and girls interact with each other, they get sensitized regarding issues of the opposite gender. Therefore segregation and moral policing are not the solutions for eradicating sexual crimes, but the opposite is.
Many religious injunctions are misinterpreted and misused to perpetuate male dominance and patriarchy. If women are to given their actual status, which is accorded to them by Islam, the accurate interpretation of Islamic teachings concerning women’s dignity must be propagated. Both state and the pulpit have to play their role in this regard.
Lastly, the stigma attached to sexual crimes prevents the victims from coming forward and reporting harassment and sexual violence against them. The victims of such crimes are perceived as having lost their dignity; therefore, they do not come out to share their suffering. The families of victims discourage them from disclosing their ordeal because they have to undergo public shaming. This ostrich mentality has to be abandoned. One should understand that the victim is not the one who loses dignity but the perpetrator who loses dignity, and he is the one who should be treated as a criminal rather than the victim.
Deep-seated misconceptions and fallacies take generations to be changed but to bring a change, steps should be taken in the right direction. The educated and enlightened segments of society have to play their constructive role in it. Only then can we make a society where women could play a constructive role in nation-building without fear of being harassed or intimidated.