Saturday, 22 March 2014

Walking that Walk- II: Anti- rape legislations - The Good, Bad and Ugly

As a matured progressive society even if we ignore and discount the un-becoming comments by a host of public figures on the big ‘R’ word  [only one of the many links showing a host of public figures putting their foot in their mouths on this issue made it to this write up -] culturally, there is still a vast number of people who are either in denial of the severity of such offences or believe in one more of the following [for lack of a better word] ‘Anti- progressive Myths’:
X     Anti-rape movements are ‘Feminist’: These are not crimes against womanhood, these are targeted against perceived ‘vulnerability’.  It is hence not a ‘Feminist’ issue but a ‘Human Rights’ issue.
X     The victim brought it upon to themselves:  There is NO [absolutely NO] action of the victim that is a good enough an excuse to blame the victim. Nothing invites an infringement like this. [If satire is doesn’t offend you here’s a good watch- ]
X     Stereotypes for victims and offenders: There are no types or generic characteristics of Victims and also of Offenders with regards to age, color, background, lifestyle or track record or what they wear or do or where they live.
X    Low number of reported cases means lower rate of crime:  Studies in USA estimate~ 54% cases go unreported, ~ 70% in UK [ this was discouraging enough to not research this any further or refer to statistics on reported cases as benchmarks].
X     Ratio of falsely reported cases is very high:  Though there is no exact study on this, the number of falsely alleged cases is considered ~ 2-8% varying across various countries on basis of some older studies i.e. around 92of100 victims are not lying. Good enough case to have stringent laws.

This is one of the most complex crimes to deal with, where the burden of proof on the victim is in addition to coping with the social stigma attached to it. Being lost in Mens rea, Actus reus- definition of what constitutes [does not constitute] the crime and Consent or no consent etc. takes preference over victim’s personal trauma or need for closure.

Sometimes, crimes seem tad too dynamic and the law a bit rigid. In times [that we all hope have] gone-by some cultures accepted punishing the victims as ‘closure’ or ‘restoration’ to victim’s family. Such offences have travelled through time to evolve from Not being an offence at all to Being an offence towards ‘family-honor’  to Being a ‘side–kick offence [i.e. punishable depending on gravity of alleged offences like murder or abduction or acts of cruelty] to being recognized a Human Rights' Violation. In the modern day while the penal provisions in most countries – range from Imprisonment for 2 years to Life, below are examples of the Good, Bad and the Ugly of [Anti] Rape Legislations:
The Good: Thanks to the UN membership charter that considers rape as a human rights’ violation, such offences at least get considered as an offence. i.e. 170+ countries have [some] legal provisions against such crimes.
The Bad: Take it with a pinch of salt- In Panama, penalty for rape and/or domestic violence carries sentences of 2 to 4 years imprisonment but you steal a cow and its 8 years of jail time.
The Ugly: Good thing the Islamic law-following countries prescribe capital punishments for offenders, but in practice there have been instances where the victims have been punished with jail time and lashes quoting the unwritten Sharia Law for not adhering to gender segregation [i.e. being alone with a man who is not a relative].
In a civil, abiding society the objective of law should as much to prevent and deter the crime as much it is to bring justice or maintain order….Here’s how a legislation could help:
1.       Despite the cultural differences across the world, a global minimum standards anti-rape code could really elevate the effectiveness of the legislations in a lot of countries.

2.       Such crimes are a matter of immediate attention and should qualify for Fast track trials Speedy redressal of offences and stringent penal consequences would go long way to deter the rate of crime.

3.       Incorporating provisions for a strong support system by way of registered help networks for victims that could be involved at early stages of the incident to aid reporting, medical examinations, judiciary processes and most important psychological and social rehabilitation of victims.

4.       Legal provisions to penalize practices like human trafficking, domestic violence, bride-price, female feticide, FGM etc.

Data Sources:

By Jotika C

PS: Since this is the sequel to ‘Walking that walk’, makes a case for a quick introduction:  While we come across a lot of ambitious ‘intends’, the harsh reality remains that talking that talk is a lot easier than walking down that tough road to action. The ‘walking that walk’ series is an attempt to distinguish the talks from the walk and let data speak for itself.

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