Sexual assault: A direct result of patriarchy

rape3A string of brutal rapes has shocked us yet again. News of horrific sexual assaults that make headlines almost every other day has become the new normal. It disturbs us momentarily and we get back to our normal lives until the next ghastly violation of a female — be it a little girl or a grown woman — is flashed across our television and phone screens.

A spurt in the number of rape cases can be rightly attributed to more people coming out, with changing times and mindsets, to report the terrible crime and seek justice. Nonetheless, rape is happening at alarming rates in every nook and corner of our country, irrespective of
the levels of development of the region. What is the reason behind such large-scale sexual violence?

In male-dominated societies, women are treated as properties rather than human beings with their own desires and rights. Women are considered beholders of their families’ and communities’ hollow sense of honour. Sexual assault is a behavioural crime in which the perpetrator feels that he is more powerful not just physically but also because he is a man. According to psychologists, sexual offenders don’t see their victims as persons but as objects. Many men have been conditioned to see women as objects. The man’s upbringing and immediate environment play an important role. From childhood, boys are given preferential treatment over their sisters and they grow up seeing their mothers being ill-treated by their fathers. It is only normal for them to grow up believing that men are far more superior than women who are meant to be controlled.

It is the battle between the patriarchal mindset in the country and the new-found values of a liberal culture that has resulted in a rise in sexual violence against women. As more people are migrating to cities and as the demography of small towns is changing, there is a clash of cultures. People from orthodox backgrounds are unable to cope with the culture shock they get when they set foot in a modern environment. When a person who is used to seeing women being treated like domestic slaves and not being allowed to go out of their homes without permission, starts to co-exist with women who live independent lives and take their own decisions themselves, he fails to comprehend that it’s a normal thing to do. When he comes across a woman who openly talks to men, wears short clothes, goes out at night, consumes alcohol — all the things that only men (or ‘loose women’) are sanctioned to do — there is an urge to control her, prevent her from claiming a share of male privilege, teach her a lesson for getting into male territory. Where feudal mindsets persist, women’s sexualities are owned, controlled and stifled.

It’s very important that the quality of compassion is inculcated in little boys so that they grown up to be men who treat everyone with dignity. Unfortunately, being emotional and sensitive are considered to be feminine traits and males are encouraged to shun these natural characteristics at young ages. Boys must be brought up to be kind and humane instead of being filled with empty and false notions of masculinity. It’s also very important that women are taught to take their own decisions from a very young age. Psychologists believe that women who are emotionally strong, outspoken and assertive can protect themselves. If a woman’s body language is assertive, the offender will be discouraged; docile and submissive women are easy targets of assault.

Perpetrators of crime are also encouraged by low rate of conviction. The felin that one can get away from the law leads them on to commit crime. It is thus important that sexual offenders are brought to justice swiftly and sternly and that the right precedents are set.