Part 13: Rape Culture: It’s Bigger Than We Think

By January 3, 2014Uncategorized
In this continuing series, guest blogger Toria helps us consider rape culture and how to better “do justice” for women. Warning: May contain explicit images, language, and/or triggers.
 What I have told you so far makes the situation sound dire. Women in North America have an incredibly difficult time dealing with the dangers of just being women. They could be in jeopardy in any number of situations simply because a man is around.
So how could this get worse?
In case you don’t pay much attention to international news, I’ll tell you why: because this doesn’t just happen in North America. It’s global. And it’s ancient.
There have been many high-profile cases of rape and assault around the world, as well as questionable quotes from high-profile people from outside North America. Here are the ones I came across:
•     A group of young men in New Zealand called the “Roast Busters” has gained a reputation for sexually exploiting and gang-raping drunk women and sometimes underage girls. There have been no punishments for these boys because some are related to law enforcement officers. When people confronted them over social media, they often replied with rape jokes.
•      A group of men gang-raped a photo journalist in India after separating her from her male
colleague, whom they incapacitated before the assault.
•     For several months, it has been dangerous for women to leave their homes in Cairo, Egypt. Partially due to political unrest, there have been several instances of mob assaults and rapes, during which dozens of men will surround a woman, strip her, grope her, and possibly rape her. Because there are so many people involved in these crimes, it is extremely difficult to find and prosecute the individuals who participate. Recent studies by the United Nations show that more than 90% of women in Egypt have reported sexual harassment, sexual assault, or both; this is dangerous for women because “outing” themselves as assault survivors often makes them “tainted” in the eyes of their families and communities.
•     Four adult men and one juvenile gang-raped and tortured a woman on a bus in India in front of witnesses. She died of her injuries two weeks later.
bello poster pic•     An eight-year-old girl in Yemen died due to sexual trauma on her wedding night after being married to a forty-year-old man. Children cannot legally consent to sex, so marriages to children constitute rape.
•     In India, three boys raped Shameem Akhter, an eighteen-year-old girl, and threw acid on her face. She has had at least ten reconstructive surgeries since the incident.
•     Marital rape (rape by a spouse) was legal in certain states until as recently as 1993. It is still legal in more than thirty countries.
•     Several countries have had to segregate train cars due to the high frequency of assault and rape that occurs on public transportation.
•     Kathryn Bolkovac, a contracted worker for the United Nations hired to limit and prevent sexual abuse in the area, discovered a human-trafficking ring in post-war Bosnia in the late 1990s. This ring was made up of hundreds of women, many of whom were minors, who had been  lured from other countries with the promise of employment, and was being used by other U.N. contracted employees and officials from several different countries who were sent home without criminal records due to government immunity. Bolkovac was fired after she discovered the ring, but brought the situation to light by reporting it to the BBC. (There is a movie adaptation of this story called The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz.)
•     Kevin Zervos, Director of Public Prosecutions in Hong Kong, said in an interview with the Sunday Morning Post that “men will actually respect women more if they see women showing compassion to them and realizing they are better off without a conviction” when interviewed for an article discussing mercy for first-time sex offenders. He also said, “[W]hen an incident occurs and a man gets carried away … is it social misbehaviour or is it a crime?” This article was run following complaints to the Post saying that the justice system had been lax in sentencing sex offenders in recent years, and didn’t want people to think that light sentences meant that the offenders were “getting away with it.” A similar piece was run in the South China Morning Post in December 2012.
•     Daming Sunusi, a judge in Indonesia who was running for Supreme Court placement in January 2013, was asked if he thought the death penalty was a suitable punishment for rapists; in reply, he
said that careful consideration was necessary because in some cases, “both the rapist and the victim enjoy it.”  He  later claimed that this was a joke meant to “ease tension” and that he hadn’t
thought that what he said would be offensive. (The Judicial Commission disagreed.)
•     In the Manitoba Mennonite community in Bolivia, over 130 women and girls as young as three years old have been raped in the middle of the night in their homes by a group of men, some of them very young, from their community; these men would spray a drug through the screened windows to knock out the women and their families. For many years before the first perpetrators were caught, these women were told that Satan had been visiting them and punishing them for their sins. Rape, pedophilia and incest are continuing problems in this community.

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