There is a saying that “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, but another thing I think that we can be sure about is that change is inevitable. Given time, the weather, people, places, fashion, you name it – they all change.
However, there is one area that desperately needs to change and isn’t (or at least not sufficiently) and that is people’s perception of and attitude towards rape. It is often a topic that is taboo or something people are uncomfortable talking about. But it is an issue that has to be addressed. It is time we stopped looking the other way because it offends our sensibilities.
According to World Bank data women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.
It is difficult to gain accurate statistics on rape as different countries have different definitions of what constitutes rape. Also there is a discrepancy between true numbers of rape cases and those that are officially documented. Quite frequently victims end up never even reporting the crime to the police or in fact to anyone due to the social stigma attached to rape victims or for fear of the repercussions they may face.
In January 2013, in its first ever joint Official Statistics bulletin on sexual violence, entitled ‘An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales’ the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Home Office in the UK reported that approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year and over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year.
In India, rape has become one of the most common crimes against women. According to the National Crime Records Bureau almost 25,000 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. It is also estimated that a new case of rape is reported every 22 minutes in India and in the United States it is every two minutes. Just to put things in perspective, by the time you finish reading this article odds are that a rape will have taken place in the US. These are frightening statistics and it is only the tip of the iceberg.
In a recent interview, Mukesh Singh convicted of gang raping a 23-year-old woman in 2012 in Delhi, says that they had a right to teach her a lesson for being out at night. According to him, she should have put up with the rape and not fought back. If she had she might still be alive today. Sadly this kind of attitude is not the exception but prevalent in many societies around the world where women are both blamed and shamed for being raped.
How many tragic stories have we heard where families have disowned rape victims or where the perceived shame has led to honour killings taking place. There is also the fact that women are not always taken seriously when they have come forward and the age old “he said, she said” scenario is played out.
To improve the situation we need a better support system for the victims but perhaps more importantly, to educate men to respect women and to understand that any form of sexual harassment and assault is unacceptable.
As my sixteen-year-old daughter pointed out, shouldn’t the message going forward be “don’t rape” instead of “don’t be raped”? No one deserves to be sexually assaulted regardless of who they are, where they are or what they happen to be wearing at the time.
–Nadia Kabir Barb
First published here: http://www.thedailystar.net/the-star/straight-talk/time-change-71189
Nadia Kabir Barb has been a long standing columnist for the Star Magazine (The Daily Star Newspaper, Bangladesh) with her column ‘Straight Talk’. She graduated with a Masters from the London School of Economics and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and has worked in the health and development sector in London and Bangladesh. She is a British Bangladeshi mother of three and draws inspiration for her column from her multicultural background. Her articles range from social and political issues to humorous and often irreverent observations of life in general. Her short stories ‘Let Me Go’ and ‘The Lives of Others’ were selected as Story of the Week by The Missing Slate Magazine. She was also recently chosen as their ‘Author of the Month’.