Rape Culture, Law and Politics

Rape culture: It is a term generally used in sociology. It means a setting or a society where rape is omnipresent and inescapable and often normalized due to the societal attitudes about sexuality and gender. Behaviours associated with rape culture include a wide range of social happenings such as victim blaming, making rape a miniscule issue, objectifying women, denial of widespread rape, no acknowledgement of the harm caused due to sexual violence, etc. The term rape culture was first coined in the United States of America. It was used in 1970s by the second-wave feminists in an era when these feminists started becoming involved in consciousness-raising efforts specially designed to educate the general public about the existence and prevalence of rape.

 Effects of rape culture: Rape culture is destructive and detrimental to both women and men. Writers and speakers, such as Jackson Katz, Don McPherson and Michael Kimmel have said that rape culture is inherently linked to gender roles that limit male self-expression and cause psychological harm to men. Iris Marion Young, a political scientist is of the opinion that victims in rape cultures live in fear all through their lives. They are afraid that random acts of oppressive sexual violence aimed at damaging or humiliating them are going to happen any time soon. Some other thinkers connect rape culture to industrialization and modernization and they argue that pre-industrial societies used to be “rape free” cultures, since the really low status of women evident in these societies give them some protection from sexual violence. On the other hand, in industrial rape cultures, women emerge from their fixed household roles and become visible in the outside and workplace arena that are traditionally and essentially dominated by men thereby increasing male insecurities resulting in their usage of rape to suppress and dominate over the  women.

Rape in India: Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India. The National Crime Records Bureau 2013 annual report states that 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012 and out of these, 24,470 were committed by someone known to the victim. This amounts to 98% of the cases. 2012 statistics show that New Delhi has the highest raw number of rape reports among Indian cities, while Jabalpur has the highest per capita rate of rape reports.

Factors of rape in India: Rape is performed by people who want to feel powerful. The sad reality about today’s state of affairs is that India’s justice system has not been able to ensure a timely or fair justice for the survivors of sexual assault, thereby causing the accused to believe that they will get away with it. The most shocking fact is that marital rape isn’t even considered actual rape in India. The problem is further aggravated by weak local law enforcement agencies and there are cases where some of the local police officers are perpetrators too. At times, rape is used as a punishment for women who marry into different castes in rural India. Dalit and foreign women are targeted more oppressively. The victims are often forced to marry the men who raped them. The rape culture seems to operate in India; there isn’t a strong opposition or urgency in demand for a change at the national level. Typically, the Indian society does not hold men liable and are often found adopting the typical “boys will be boys” attitude. Victim blaming also supports and encourages rape culture. The various Bollywood films which act as a strong cultural influence have very sexist plots. They show women subservient to men and thus act as an encouragement to men to force their will on women. Moral policing for rape victims is also another factor. Moral policing suggests that if the women do not adhere to certain standard set by the so-called moralists of the society, it is completely justified when those women are raped.

Legal response to rape in India: The Nirbhaya incident that took place in December 2012 expanded the definition of rape in India. The law prior to this incident took into account only the acts of penile-vaginal intercourse and forcible acts of penetration of vagina, mouth, urethra or anus through penis or an inanimate object did not fall within the definition of rape. This resulted in a large number of rapists being set free as there was no such law to punish such acts. However, the definition was expanded in 2013 and it included acts like penetration by penis, or any object or any part of body to any extent, into the vagina, anus, urethra or mouth of a woman or making her to do so with another person or applying of mouth to sexual organs without the consent or will of the woman constitutes the offence of rape.

Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code also states that by penetration it is meant “penetration to any extent”, and the lack of physical resistance is immaterial for constituting an offence. Except in certain aggravated situations, the punishment for rape will be imprisonment of not less than seven years and which may be extended to imprisonment for life, and which shall also be liable to fine. In extreme and aggravated situations, punishment will be rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine. In the case where “gang rape” is done to a victim, the same mandatory sentencing prescribed in rape is now required by law. By the new changes, the convicted is also required to pay compensation to the victim. The compensation has to be reasonable so as to enable the victim to meet the medical expenses and rehabilitation. In the most extreme type of rape cases, death penalty has also been specified.

The new law created in 2013 also increased the age of consent from 16 years to 18 years, and any sexual activity with anyone who is less than age of 18 will now constitute statutory rape and the fact that consent was given or not will not be considered. The new law has made it essential and mandatory for all the government and privately run hospitals in India to give free first aid and medical treatment to the rape victims.

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