On 16 December, 2012, a 23-year old woman and her friend hailed a bus at a crossing in South Delhi. In the bus, they were both brutally attacked by a group of men who claimed to be out on a ‘joy-ride’. The woman was gang raped and the man beaten up; after several hours, they were both stripped and dumped on the road. While the young woman is still in hospital, bravely battling for her life, her friend has been discharged and is helping identify the men responsible for the heinous crime.
We, the undersigned, women’s, students’ and progressive groups and concerned citizens from around the country, are outraged at this incident and, in very strong terms, condemn her gang rape and the physical and sexual assault.
As our protests spill over to the streets all across the country, our demands for justice are strengthened by knowing that there are countless others who share this anger. We assert that rape and other forms of sexual violence are not just a women’s issue, but a political one that should concern every citizen. We strongly demand that justice is done in this and all other cases and the perpetrators are punished.
This incident is not an isolated one; sexual assault occurs with frightening regularity in this country. Adivasi and dalit women and those working in the unorganised sector, women with disabilities, hijras, kothis, trans people and sex workers are especially targeted with impunity – it is well known that the complaints of sexual assault they file are simply disregarded. We urge that the wheels of justice turn not only to incidents such as the Delhi bus case, but to the epidemic of sexual violence that threatens all of us. We need to evolve punishments that act as true deterrents to the very large number of men who commit these crimes. Our stance is not anti-punishment but against the State executing the death penalty. The fact that cases of rape have a conviction rate of as low as 26% shows that perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a high degree of impunity, including being freed of charges.
Silent witnesses to everyday forms of sexual assault such as leering, groping, passing comments, stalking and whistling are equally responsible for rape being embedded in our culture and hence being so prevalent today. We, therefore, also condemn the culture of silence and tolerance for sexual assault and the culture of valorising this kind of violence.
We also reject voices that are ready to imprison and control women and girls under the garb of ‘safety’, instead of ensuring their freedom as equal participants in society and their right to a life free of perpetual threats of sexual assault, both inside and outside their homes.
In cases (like this) which have lead to a huge public outcry all across the country, and where the perpetrators have been caught, we hope that justice will be speedily served and they will be convicted for the ghastly acts that they have committed. However, our vision of this justice does not include death penalty, which is neither a deterrent nor an effective or ethical response to these acts of sexual violence. We are opposed to it for the following reasons:
- 1. We recognise that every human being has a right to life. Our rage cannot give way to what are, in no uncertain terms, new cycles of violence. We refuse to deem ‘legitimate’ any act of violence that would give the State the right to take life in our names. Justice meted by the State cannot bypass complex socio-political questions of violence against women by punishing rapists by death. Death penalty is often used to distract attention away from the real issue – it changes nothing but becomes a tool in the hands of the State to further exert its power over its citizens. A huge set of changes are required in the system to end the widespread and daily culture of rape.
- 2. There is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to rape. Available data shows that there is a low rate of conviction in rape cases and a strong possibility that the death penalty would lower this conviction rate even further as it is awarded only under the ‘rarest of rare’ circumstances. The most important factor that can act as a deterrent is the certainty of punishment, rather than the severity of its form.
- 3. As seen in countries like the US, men from minority communities make up a disproportionate number of death row inmates. In the context of India, a review of crimes that warrant capital punishment reveals the discriminatory way in which such laws are selectively and arbitrarily applied to disadvantaged communities, religious and ethnic minorities. This is a real and major concern, as the possibility of differential consequences for the same crime is injustice in itself.
- 4. The logic of awarding death penalty to rapists is based on the belief that rape is a fate worse than death. Patriarchal notions of ‘honour’ lead us to believe that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. There is a need to strongly challenge this stereotype of the ‘destroyed’ woman who loses her honour and who has no place in society after she’s been sexually assaulted. We believe that rape is tool of patriarchy, an act of violence, and has nothing to do with morality, character or behaviour.
- 5. An overwhelming number of women are sexually assaulted by people known to them, and often include near or distant family, friends and partners. Who will be able to face the psychological and social trauma of having reported against their own relatives? Would marital rape (currently not recognised by law), even conceptually, ever be looked at through the same retributive prism?
- 6. The State often reserves for itself the ‘right to kill’ — through the armed forces, the paramilitary and the police. We cannot forget the torture, rape and murder of ThangjamManoramaby the Assam Rifles in Manipur in 2004 or the abduction, gang rape and murder of Neelofar and Aasiya of Shopian (Kashmir) in 2009.Giving more powers to the State, whether arming the police and giving them the right to shoot at sight or awarding capital punishment, is not a viable solution to lessen the incidence of crime.
- Furthermore, with death penalty at stake, the ‘guardians of the law’ will make sure that no complaints against them get registered and they will go to any length to make sure that justice does not see the light of day. The ordeal of Soni Sori, who had been tortured in police custody last year, still continues her fight from inside aprison in Chattisgarh, in spite of widespread publicity around her torture.
- 7. As we know, in cases of sexual assault where the perpetrator is in a position of power (such as in cases of custodial rape or caste and communal violence), conviction is notoriously difficult. The death penalty, for reasons that have already been mentioned, would make conviction next to impossible.
We, the undersigned, demand the following:
- Greater dignity, equality, autonomy and rights for women and girls from a society that should stop questioning and policing their actions at every step.
- Immediate relief in terms of legal, medical, financial and psychological assistance and long-term rehabilitation measures must be provided to survivors of sexual assault.
- Provision of improved infrastructure to make cities safer for women, including well-lit pavements and bus stops, help lines and emergency services.
- Effective registration, monitoring and regulation of transport services (whether public, private or contractual) to make them safe, accessible and available to all.
- Compulsory courses within the training curriculum on gender sensitisation for all personnel employed and engaged by the State in its various institutions, including the police.
- That the police do its duty to ensure that public spaces are free from harassment, molestation and assault. This means that they themselves have to stop sexually assaulting women who come to make complaints. They have to register all FIRs and attend to complaints. CCTV cameras should be set up in all police stations and swift action must be taken against errant police personnel.
- Immediate setting up of fast track courts for rape and other forms of sexual violence all across the country. State governments should operationalise their creation on a priority basis. Sentencing should be done within a period of six months.
- The National Commission for Women has time and again proved itself to be an institution that works against the interests of women. NCW’s inability to fulfil its mandate of addressing issues of violence against women, the problematic nature of the statements made by the Chairperson and its sheer inertia in many serious situations warrants that the NCW role be reviewed and auditedas soon as possible.
- The State acknowledges the reality of custodial violence against women in many parts of the country, especially in Kashmir, North-East and Chhattisgarh. There are several pending cases and immediate action should be taken by the government to punish the guilty and to ensure that these incidents of violence are not allowed to be repeated.
- Regarding the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012, women’s groups have already submitted detailed recommendations to the Home Ministry. We strongly underline that the Bill must not be passed in its current form because of its many serious loopholes and lacuna. Some points:
– There has been no amendment to the flawed definition of consent under Sec 375 IPC and this has worked against the interest of justice for women.
– The formulation of the crime of sexual assault as gender neutralmakes the identity of the perpetrator/accused also gender neutral. We demand that the definition of perpetrator be gender-specific and limited to men. Sexual violence also targets transgender people and legal reform must address this.
– In its current form, the Bill does not recognise the structural and graded nature of sexual assault, based on concepts of hurt, harm, injury, humiliation and degradation. The Bill also does not use well-established categories of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and sexual offences.
– It does not mention sexual assault by security forces as a specific category of aggravated sexual assault. We strongly recommend the inclusion of perpetration of sexual assault by security forces under Sec 376(2).
Endorsed by the following groups and individuals:
|– Citizens’ Collective against Sexual Assault (CCSA)|
– Purnima, Nirantar, New Delhi
– Sandhya Gokhale, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay
– Deepti, Saheli, Delhi
– Mary John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), New Delhi
– Jagori, Delhi
– Vimochana, Bangalore
– Stree Mukti Sanghathan, Delhi
– Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch
– Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, New Delhi
– Anuradha Kapoor ,Swayam, Calcutta
– Kalpana Mehta, Manasi Swasthya Sansthan, Indore
– Nandita Gandhi, Akshara, Bombay
– Indira, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression, (WSS), New Delhi
– National Alliance of people’s Movements (NAPM)
– Mallika, Maati, Uttarakhand
– Meena Saraswathi Seshu, SANGRAM, Sangli
– GRAMEENA MAHILA Okkutta, Karnataka
– WinG Assam
– Arati Chokshi, PUCL, Bangalore.
– Action India, Delhi
– Majlis Law, Legal Services for Women, Mumbai
– Sahiayar (Stree Sangathan), Vadodara, Gujarat
– Vasanth Kannabiran (NAWO, AP) Asmita
– Sheba George, SAHRWARU
– SAMYAK, Pune
– Shabana Kazi, VAMP
– Sruti disAbility Rights Centre, Kolkata
– Forum to Engage Men (FEM), New Delhi
– MASVAW( Men Action for stopping Violence Against Women), UP
– Breakthrough, New Delhi
– V Rukmini Rao, Gramya Resource Centre for Women, Secunderabad
– LABIA, a queer feminist LBT collective, Mumbai
– Law Trust, Tamil Nadu
– Men’s Action to Stop Violence agaisnt Women (MASVAW), UP
– National Forum for Single Women’s Rights
– NAWO-AP, Arunachal Pradesh Women’s Welfare Society (APWWS)
– Indigenous Women’s Resource Centre (IWRC)
– New Socialist Initiative, Delhi
– Gabriele Dietrich, Pennurimai Iyakkam
– Sangat, a South Asian Feminist Network
– Stree Mukti Sanghatana, Mumbai
– SWATI, Ahmedabad
– Tamil Nadu Women Fish Workers Forum
– Subhash Mendhapurkar,SUTRA, H.P.
– Mario, Nigah, queer collective, New Delhi
– Sushma Varma, Samanatha Mahila Vedike, Bangalore
– Priti Darooka, PWESCR (The Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), New Delhi
– Pushpa Achanta (WSS, Karnataka)
– AWN, Kabul
– AZAD and Sakha Team, Delhi
– Ekta, Madurai
– Empower People
– Vrinda Grover
– Chayanika Shah, Bombay
– Aruna Roy
– Kalyani Menon-Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships, Gurgaon
– Nandini Rao
– Pratiksha Baxi
– Amrita Nandy
– Farah Naqvi, Writer & Activist, Delhi
– Nivedita Menon
– Urvashi Butalia
– Kaveri R I, Bengaluru
– Dunu Roy
– Harsh Mander
– Anil TV
– Laxmi Murthy, Journalist, Bangalore
– Rahul Roy
– Rituparna Borah, queer feminist activist
– Ranjana Padhi, New Delhi
– Trupti Shah, Vadodara, Gujarat
– Vasanth Kannabiran
– Sudha Bharadwaj
– Veena Shatrugna, Hyderabad
– Kamayani Bali Mahabal
– Kiran Shaheen, Journalist and activist
– Lesley A Esteves, journalist, New Delhi
– devangana kalita, assam
– Aruna Burte
– Anita Ghai
– Mohan Rao, New Delhi
– Rakhi Sehgal, New Delhi
– Geetha Nambisan
– Charan Singh, New Delhi
– Manjima Bhattacharjya
– Jinee Lokaneeta,Associate professor, Drew University, Madison, NJ
– Kavita Panjabi, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
– Albertina almeida, Goa
– Satyajit Rath, New Delhi
– Prerna Sud, New Delhi
– Priya Sen, New Delhi
– Aarthi Pai, Bangalore
– Kalpana Vishwanath, Gurgaon
– Aisha K. Gill, Reader, University of Roehampton, London
– Ammu Abraham, Mumbai
– Anagha Sarpotdar, Activist and PhD Student, Mumbai
– Anand Pawar
– Anuradha Marwah, Ajmer Adult Education Association (AAEA), Ajmer
– Asha Ramesh, activist/researcher/consultant
– Gauri Gill, New delhi
– Sophia Khan, Gujarat
– Niranjani Iyer, Chennai
– Dyuti Ailawadi
– Gandimathi Alagar
– Gayatri Buragohain – Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT), New Delhi
– Geetha Nambisan, Delhi
– Sadhna Arya, New Delhi
– Vineeta Bal, New Delhi
– Suneeta Dhar
– Geeta Ramaseshan, Advocate, Chennai
– Sonal Sharma, New delhi
– Anusha Hariharan, Delhi/Chennai
– Gautam Bhan, New Delhi
– Jayasree Subramanian, TISS, Hyderabad
– Jhuma Sen, Advocate, Supreme Court
– Teena Gill, New Delhi
– Kannamma Raman
– Karuna D W
– Kavita Panjabi
– Shalini Krishan, New Delhi
– Lalita Ramdas, Secunderabad
– Manasi Pingle
– Madhumita Dutta, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
– Manoj Mitta
– Pamela Philipose
– Parul Chaudhary
– Preethi Herman
– Sunil Gupta, New Delhi
– Radha Khan
– Rama Vedula
– Rebecca John
– Renu Khanna, SAHAJ
– Rohini Hensman (Writer and Activist, Bombay)
– Rohit Prajapati, Environmental activist, Gujarat
– Roshmi Goswami
– Shipra Nigam, Consultant Economist, Research and Information Systems, New Delhi
– Shipra Deo, Agribusiness Systems InternationalVamshakti, Pratapgarh
– Rukmini Datta
– Sridala Swami
– Sarba Raj Khadka, Kathmandu
– Satish K. Singh, CHSJ
– Shinkai Karokhail, from the Afghanistan Parliament
– Sima Samar, Kabul
– Smita Singh, FTII, Pune
– Subhalakshmi Nandi
– Sujata Gothoskar
– Swar Thounaojam
– Inayat Sabhikhi
– Jaya Vindhyala, Hyderabad
More from Kafila:
- Bakht Arif, from Pakistan, sings Zinda Lash for Patronizing Indian Politicians (No, Don’t Listen to Honey Singh)
- How Delhi police assaulted my daughter on 25 December: Usha Saxena
- An ‘I Witness’ Account of Delhi Police and RAF Violence at India Gate on 23 December: Sangeeta Das
- Armed Forces Special Powers Act provides impunity for rape: Warisha Farasat
- Stop Shielding Criminals in the Army and Security Forces in Assam: Bondita and Anjuman
- Play Haze Kay not Honey Singh: Music from Kashmir against Rape for Delhi
- Rape is allowed because most people don’t know what it is: Anonymous
- Sexual Violence and Sexuality Education – The Missing Link: Ketaki Chowkhani
- Misogyny, Politics and Zombiedom: From Sonia Gandhi to Botsa Satyanarayana
- How the God of Death Changed His Mind: Images from the Protest Against Rape at Jantar Mantar
- This is to clarify a small misunderstanding: Anusha Rizvi
- How not to think about violence against women: Noopur Tiwari
- Statement by women’s and progressive groups and individuals condemning sexual violence and opposing death penalty
60 thoughts on “Statement by women’s and progressive groups and individuals condemning sexual violence and opposing death penalty”
Reblogged this on Law or Logic.
I like to express full solidarity. with this outstanding initiative , especially because the legitimate and massive anger of people against the gruesome crime in Delhi is dramatically being diverted and manipulated for political mileage, by those who have always been openly promoting a culture of rape , hate and violence .
By the way, why not keep this list of supporters open rather than concluded ,so that thousands more could join ?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml1Y7zXXnvc: Check the link, There is a large Hindu society, which still believes and forces dalit women into the system of Jogini.
Sensitaizing on both Gender and Caste is very important too.
Hear, hear. It’s been a harrowing few days for me as a feminist to come to terms with the demands being made on the streets. I’m glad women’s alliances like these exist and have collectively made this statement on our behalf.
Is the letter open for more endorsements, please?
I agree with almost all the demands made above. I have an additional demand. It is not from the authorities. it is from the signatories to this missive. It is also from all sections of the society. We have to strike at the root of the problem rather than the symptoms. The root of the problem is male chauvinist attitudes present in our society. We have two Indias. One aping the West and another mired in backward values. We need to decrease the gap between these two Indias. There should be more interaction between the classes. A beginning can be made by each elite family being in touch with another family who is a notch or two below their level whether in educational, economic or status or any other terms. Let them understand each other. May the better infect the inferiior. The ideal thing would be for the agitating students to spend their vacations in urban slums or in villages and bring about social transformation. Governments alone can not bring about social transformation. They have not been found to be capable of bringing about even only economic transformation. Only after economic reforms and taking on board the private sector which in other terms means more societal participation that economic transformation has picked up momentum. All of us, not merely the government need to act. I know Kafila, by and large, wants the authorities only to do something but a change in perspective is called for at least in this case. I am not even sure that my response would pass Kafila’s censor. Its uncensored passage unlike some others would perhaps be a first step in the desired direction.
I completely agree with you. Fortunately or unfortunately, most folks of a higher econ rank in any society are convinced their superior status is an act of a god form to be one their level. You are correct, the wounds need to be addressed but in the interim, enforced laws will help. I’m hoping that all of the national WC and other organizations will stand with you.
It’s time to grow up take responsibility..
I agree with every single thing you have demanded, except that laws against sexual crime should not be gender-neutral. Yes, they must be. That is a step towards true equality. If the law is made specific to male sex offenders, men who are victims will have no recourse. This is as unfair as unfair can be. There can be no argument that for every man who is sexually harassed, 100000 or so women are harassed. One or a million, sexual assault is wrong and the perpetrator must be punished. Feminism does not mean female superiority. It means promoting gender equality.
I fully support this initiative.
I stand in solidarity with the demands made in this statement but I have a problem with the gender bias apparent in the same towards ‘men’! the entire lack of understanding that a man can also get raped or sexually assaulted by a man or a woman, has been overlooked very casually. The shame and the trauma faced by a man who is raped is not in any way less than a woman’s, or women with disabilities, hijras, kothis, trans people and sex workers. Secondly I find no logic in the following demand ‘ – The formulation of the crime of sexual assault as gender neutral makes the identity of the perpetrator/accused also gender neutral. We demand that the definition of perpetrator be gender-specific and limited to men. Sexual violence also targets transgender people and legal reform must address this.’ as it has been taken for granted that women can not be the perpetrators of rape/sexual assault on other women/men. Women are very much capable of sexual violence against both women and men. Just because they lack the necessary male organ (penis) to penetrate the female organ (vagina) does not exempt them from the capability for sexual assault in other forms. Formulating the sexual assault law, defining and limiting the perpetrator’s gender to ‘men’ is oversimplification of the issue of sexual assault.
As a women’s human rights activist who also opposes the death penalty, I support your efforts in India. I hope your insightful statement will contribute to activism against sexual violence and the death penalty in other parts of the world as well. Martha Morgan, Alabama, USA
fully endorse this initiative.
Very much anticipated article from Kafila. But the sad thing is no main stream educates this to masses. hope you have a larger audience.
Reblogged this on Crazy Life… and commented:
A Must Read…
This public statement has been issued at a press conference and is now open for endorsements online.
I would add:
The politicians who are accused of sexual assault, in any form, must undergo public inquiries (because they are the so called representatives of the people, and every bit of such inquiries should be made public), and until they are cleared of the charges, they should be suspended from their respective parties, irrespective of their positions.
(The word “custodial” is indicative, but I think the politicians should also be specified.)
i fully support this initiatiave
I endorse this initiative
Me too fully endorse this statement.
I endorse the sentiments of this article totally and absolutely
Couldnt agree more ..espthe pt 4 under reasons for why they oppose death penalty is thought provoking and a Must read by all concerned . Reblogged .
Devaki Jain has sent us this comment:
A surprising but also laudable aspect in the responses by the press to this – the most gruesome case of rape of a young woman – has been the complete privacy – neither her face nor that of her family has been shown over tv or the news papers over the last week . This needs commendation as so many people have met her- nurses doctors police magistrate – yet no one has yielded to the temptation of posting her picture. Given that these days the most private moments go straight into social and other media this is outstanding behaviour of all concerned – and worthy of our notice and applause.
I express my solidarity with the statement and the demands made here.
Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
Read Paromita Vohra The Sons of Men
Flavia Agnes Rape and Death
The Subjugation Capital
agree that it should be left open for more people to join but may be some other site is required to do that..If it has not already be done then this should be sent to the Home Ministry, President, Prime Minister, Leader of opposition and to all parties so to make them read this too..Impunity of armed forces and the judgment in Pathribal killing should be powerfully highlighted by us wherever possible.
‘Diverse society (USSR/India) is bound to fail’ –Putnam.
Caste system seeds hatred among people in India.
It’s only going to get worse in the future.
Rape by FORWARD CASTE people to show off their hegemony (16 year SC girl was r.p.d by 12 FC men in Haryana)
* High Court didn’t file Suo motu case.
* Police didn’t register complaint till victim’s father committed suicide.
* International media had to highlight the case.
* Only victims family agitated for justice.
* Sonia Gandhi, Hooda, Manmohan, Shinde never visited the victim.
Rape by BC/SC/ST/MC people to let off their hatred (23 year FC girl is r.p.d by 6 BC men in Delhi)
* High Court filed Suo motu case.
* Police caught accused within 24 hours.
* National media and students agitate.
* Protesters demand capital punishment for accused.
* Sonia Gandhi, Sheila Dixit, Manmohan, Shinde visit/assure justice to the victim.
Take your caste share of land as per 4th August 1932 Round Table Conference Resolution(Communal Award) and go build your own nation. Otherwise your future generations will regret.
While I wholeheartedly endorse the rest of this document, I fear this plays straight into the hands of a patriarchal formulation of rape: “The formulation of the crime of sexual assault as gender neutralmakes the identity of the perpetrator/accused also gender neutral. We demand that the definition of perpetrator be gender-specific and limited to men. Sexual violence also targets transgender people and legal reform must address this.”
Sexual aggression, violation and violence can be perpetrated by either sex or any gender on victims of any and all sexes and genders and ages and races. By suggesting that a rapist is by definition a man or male, you are playing into the idea of sexual violation only being possible by penetration and unduly limiting what ‘rape’ can constitute. That actually becomes self-defeating from every feminist perspective I can imagine. It is going from frying pan to fire again.
Teaching gender equality early on school would be a good start.Promoting respect at early age,leaves a very lasting impressions on young minds. Educating women and girls about their rights and where to get help, creating an environment where they could feel safe to complaint and to seek help,having a special squad that deals with such victims, would also be the first step to tackle a massive problem. We have special victims unit ,here in US and they are specially trained to nurture such victims and follow the law without any bias. we need such squad made up of caring, honest, and compassionate women officer who would handle such cases objectively.Citizens need to be part of this solution too. We have spectators who watches a crime being committed without getting involved in it,. They need to have pride in their own country ,enough to stand up to any wrong doings and raise their voices. I have noticed one thing in the western world, people would not think twice before rushing to help a fellow citizen, even at the cost of their own lives.We need such selfless pride among our people, for their society , their culture,to make them realize that it is about time we notice how the world perceives our nation.
Some of the Bollywood movies too have an adverse impact on the minds of such bad-elements. Lets hope things improve.
Agree and aligned.
I’ve read about this and subsequent events from afar, and hope this post is as effective as it is well written.
Really hope that this fight for justice goes ahead with support from all and marks history by bringing in a tough and severe law against such sick culprits. Let this be a learning message to all those who think and believe that a rape is not a big crime. And they unite with us in this fight against the most horrific crime.
I agree with venukmwpb; you should keep this list opened.
Agree. Still processing the horror.
I concur with you people that, death sentence for rape is not acceptable. And neither the notion of society that `rape is worse than death` is acceptable. The eve teasing, vulgar comments, groping, staring etc that women have to endure, are such activities which hurt a woman psychologically devastatingly. Now the question arises, whether post independence India is really an independent and safe place for women?
We cannot keep tabs of such atrocities like use of “word, gesture, act”(Sec 509) IPC which outrage the modesty of women. These happen in shops, schools, roads, work places, every where. the only reason such happens on such large scale is because the perpetrators are not deterred, because they don`t have any fear to deter them. the legal machinery fails here.
The only solution to these sort of offences, is to establish a separate set of laws, which punish the perpetrator strictly, make the procedure of filing FIR even for trifle act outraging modesty of women easy, and taking prompt action against them in fast track court.
I’d like to sign.
We would like to sign and are with you to fight against the the injustices and crime against women. Indira Saxena General secretary , Mahila Dakshata Samiti
We wish to sign are eager to participate in the movement to strengthen it
Dear dead young woman,
I want you to know that it wasn’t your fault. What was done to you by these men was done for reasons that lie in them, not in you or who you were. You were out in the world, and they felt you did not have a right to be there, to breathe there. And so they took it upon themselves to teach you that their beliefs are the ones that count. They taught you until you were dead. Have you learned the lesson? Have we all learned the lesson to stay in the places they’ve told us to stay?
For your sake and mine, I need to understand why this has happened and why it continues to happen. My measuring stick held to men who rape and murder does not have the right measures to find an answer. I measure it from my perspective, someone who empathises and nurtures. My first answer is that these men lack empathy and are driven by power and control. But am I measuring them with the right stick, with the right measures?
I turned to Susan Brownmiller’s book, Against our Will ( 1975) which draws out the origins of rape in the human race. One of the first line’s that stood out for me was “It (rape) is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” (pg15) Men rape to keep all of us in our place. Part of me does not want to believe this idea, so I search for more answers.
Where did rape begin? Brownmiller outlines that it is: “man’s basic weapon of force against woman, the principal agent of his will and her fear. His forcible entry into her body, despite her physical protestations and struggle, became the vehicle of his victorious conquest over her being, the ultimate test of his superior strength, the triumph of his manhood” (page14).
But why did man need to show his superior strength, why does he need to prove his manhood? Is it to prove it to himself or to other people? Or both? In searching for answers, I arrive at patriarchy. Men hold all the keys to all the doors and all the voices and visions heard and seen.
Terrence Crowley is an instructor for Men Stopping Violence. He explains that patriarchy gives men the privilege to frame society and only allow men’s perceptions of the truth. He calls it the ‘lie of entitlement’. To sustain this structure, one must only remain silent. You do not even have to acknowledge it. Because of this patriarchy, men have created the idea of men’s inherent superiority. “ This social and political dichotomy is used to promote the idea of men as intelligent, rational, sagacious and moral and women as our opposites: dense, emotive, obtuse and evil. As I aggrandize myself, I demean the opposite. As I deify the masculine, I necessarily vilify women. The degradation not only makes attack permissible, it makes it a moral imperative” (pg 308, Transforming Rape Culture, T. Crowley).
So men think we are dumb and dirty therefore in need of protection or vilification. Men feel they are superior to us, thus should be in charge of everything. Men need to prove they are in charge of everything, thus seek power. What is it in men that require this constant need, this hunger for power and control? Men need to feel in control and if they do not, they feel vulnerable and confused. To be vulnerable means one’s manhood is vulnerable, exposed, open to attack. It is one thing to protect manhood for personal integrity; it is something else when that need to protect it involves assaulting someone else. I’m hoping, my dear that, only a handful of men cross this line. But billions more remain silent to it and prefer to keep things the way they are.
I realize that I am simplifying all of this. By doing this, I leave the argument open to drive trucks of complexity through. But if I don’t break it apart, piece by piece and dissect it, I may miss the answer. Besides, it’s the answer that scares me, not complexity. In addition, just by writing this, I am leaving myself open to attack. These attacks scare me. But this fear is not new, just one that has come to the surface.
My dear dead woman, your murderers have pleaded not guilty. There must be some legal reason why this is so but from the outside, it confirms what I fear (and fear was the result they were after). They feel that they can get away with what they have done. I am afraid, dear dead woman. I am afraid for all of us. We, men, humans, have a long way to go. Pray for us here on earth. Pray that men have the courage to acknowledge the lie of men’s privilege.
With love and hope,