Updated: Aug 30
The ink-horn term of rape and its respective theoretical formulations contrasts from state-to-state and modifies in response to legislative advocacy propagated by different regimes. The abysmally low reported cases of rape has prompted the sociologists and social scientists to look into the matter seriously and thus since late 1960s and throughout the 1970s and 1980s the issue remained an important agenda of the feminist movement in different parts of the world. Many theories have gradually developed to explain the factors including rape.
The term rape owes its origin to the Latin word “rapere”, meaning thereby "to seize". So, rape literally means a kind of forced seizure. History reveals the direct relation between law, property and rape. Rape is often considered as the most serious crime against a person after murder. But the information on rape frequency comes from victims who are often very reluctant to classify their experience as rape. Thus it appears that rape is one of the challenging crimes to count! Victims all over the world are extremely hesitant to identify their experiences as rape. Firstly because they live in a society that blame rape victims and denigrate them as damaged goods. The reflection of this spirit finds a place even in the Oxford English Dictionary where “rape” is termed as "spoil" along with "forceful sex with someone against her will". In this context it is worthwhile to mention that all the rape laws also have originated to safeguard the "masculine pride in the exclusive possession of a sexual object and thus are tinted with obvious gender bias.
“Raptus” in the sense of theft or seizure associated with violence was applied both for property and person for long. It was synonymous to abduction. But if a woman was abducted and sexually molested, even violently, the crime was not actually against her body or her mind, but it was merely violation or theft of a woman against the consent of her guardian or others who had the legal and social control over her. In other words, we find that for long rape of a woman was considered as a harm against her father, husband, brother, son, family and community but never solely against her body and mind. History of war and conquest based civilization substantiate this fact all along. Following Susan Brownmiller we can say that the ancient patriarchs who came together to write their early covenants had used the rape of woman to forge their male power hence they could not see rape as crime of man against woman. The popular belief is that women were/ are wholly owned subsidiaries and not independent beings. Rape has been featured as a model of controlling women and keeping them in a state of perpetual fear. It is also suggested that rapists are not socially aberrant.
Radical Feminist Theory of Rape:
Feminist Theory of Rape as compiled several other writings also. It is said that rape is freedom of women and makes them dependent man, but the political system of patriarchy and institutionalization in the tradition of family. Rape men, in general perpetuate their dominance over to the consideration of the feminist theory rape is It is seen as another by-product of the patriarchal making women objectified and oppressed reflecting the social inequality between sexes.
Social Learning Theory of Rape:
Social Learning Theory of Rape holds rape steps. The first step is referred as modelling effect women as he observes in real life or in media. The as a second step when men learn to associate pornographic films or visiting internet sites. The rapes which somehow justifies and excuses or rape of women from other communities in case of often used as a tool to defame an entire community. Finally, there is a kind of desensitized effect associated with rape. Every society is somehow of rape victims and put their moral integrity in when someone is out to dishonour any individual can be considered as the easiest way to achieve this goal.
Evolutionary Theory of Rape:
There is also an Evolutionary Theory of Rape which focuses in the biological difference between men and women and promotes rape as a reproductive alternative for men who cannot secure a mate for lack of resources and thus in some cases, it can be identified as the manifestation off deep individual frustration. This theory has received popularity in the context of the present globalized social order with the spread of extreme consumerist culture, where aspirations and targets are higher for the majority but the resources and opportunity are available for few.
The interest in the study of rape or sexual assault has grown tremendously since the late 60s, courtesy the growth and practice of feminist studies. But, the feminist approach of has its limitations also. Rape has ceased to be an act of violence which criminals commit against individual women. Instead of that, it has been placed at the service of larger political agenda, which accuses all men of raping all women. It is definitely true that rape is used as an instrument of oppression by the powerful socio-economic groups against the less fortunate ones. In such cases truly it becomes part of larger political agenda. But this approach somehow dishonours the pain of the individual victim and makes her grief a source of gaining socio-political mileage for some other power mongers with subtle intentions.
The Author of this present article agrees in toto to the fact that rape is not a personal misfortune and it is definitely a political matter. But at the same time the generalization made by the radical feminists required questioning. Though it is true feminism replaced earlier mythology regarding rape with facts and provided practical aid to women in pain and acknowledging the same issue, the first US rape crisis line was also opened in course of this Anti-Rape campaign by the feminists in the year 1971.
Finally, without downplaying the trauma of the rape victim an iota even, I personally feel that being raped is not the worst thing that can happen to a woman’s life. But the whole system is now designed to make one feel that she is maimed and mutilated forever, if something like that happens. This demoralizing effect should be countered with the spirit to fight out the event. In this respect a shift in paradigm is definitely needed in rape studies and research. Women should not be treated as passive victims only and sensitization programme should be adopted to make them aware about the methods of combat as well as post rape strategies of survival.
Categories of Rape:
As the Author has mentioned earlier, rape can be of different kinds with different motives and different consequences. Hostility and gratification can be identifies as two major motives operating behind this event. Again hostility can be also personal or collective involving different social groups. The collective dynamics or rape is associated with unchecked aggressiveness punctuated with a kind of persistent ill feeling towards the prey, less as an individual and more as a member of the enemy bloc. Rape cases involving elements of collective dynamics are comparatively easier to identify but difficult to redress as very often it is done with a tacit support of the powerful socio-economic groups having strong political alliances. At the same time often this kind of rape receives valorization from the particular section of the society as well. On the other hand, where personal gratification is more important, strong and persistent pressure from the victim and her family or associates can yield legal remedy, at least.
Heading to the broad categorization, first we can take up the issue of “Statutory Rape”. It is the commission of intercourse with a minor wither without her consent, but definitely without the consent of her guardian and which is done outside the marriage wedlock. It is also identified as “Child Rape”. In case of this variety, the risk and the vulnerability factor remains at its peak. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the number if child rape, even the reported cases, is quite high in India.
There is another kind of rape in which a group of men and the effect of rape become more important than the victim. It goes by the name “Gang-Rape” in India and the United States of America.The rape of Bhanwari Devi in 1992, the rape of Suryanelli in the year 1996, the rape of Anjana Misra in the year 1999 followed by the Delhi Gang rape case in the year 2012, Mumbai gang rape case in the year 2013, the Ranaghat case in the year 2013, the Delta Meghwal rape case in the year 2016, Unnao Rape case in the year 2017 and Kathua rape case in the year 2018 are noticeable cases of gang-rape in India.
Next comes the category of “Mass-Rape”, which is committed on large number of women by numerous people. This kind of rape is done predominantly as a part of ethnic cleansing and dishonour a community at large. The rape of the Gujarati Muslim women in the year 2002 or the rape of the thousands of erstwhile East Pakistani women during the Bangladeshi liberation war can be mentioned in this context. Mass-Rape, thus, quite often has a political agenda, particularly in a country like India within numerous ethnic divisions based on caste, religion and language, etc. The woman’s dignity is the most vulnerable and soft target in case of any antagonistic group play all over the world. “Political Rape” constitutes another category of rape. When a particular political regime or its opposition, in a political setup, either tries to bring into force or to oppose certain political decision(s) upon the people of any particular area. The technique of raping at a large number of protestor women is often planned and implemented in an organized way in such cases. This can be identified as another sub-section of mass-rape where the political parties and alliances of a democracy try to bring the people in their fold by unleashing a kind of regimented and organized terrorism of which rape is a part. Thus, rape is used as an instrument promoting the decisions of the democratically elected guardians of the society as well as in its democratic opposition.
“Marital Rape” is another category which millions of women have to undergo every day. The specific term refers to unwanted intercourse by a man on his wife obtained by force, threat of force, physical violence or when she is unable to give consent. The words, “unwanted intercourse” refers to all kinds of penetration (anal, vaginal or oral) against her will or without her consent. It can again be broadly divided into three clusters; First being the ‘Force-only rapes’. Herein, the husband uses enough force to coerce the wife to intercourse. ‘Battering rapes’ is another cluster of marital rape, wherein the wife is beaten, slapped, pushed and shoved. In this kind of rape wife has gone though both, physical and sexual violence.
‘Sadistic or obsessive rape’ is another cluster of marital rape involving torture and/ or other perverse sexual act(s). Marital rape is something, which is very difficult to identify. Moreover, until very recent past it was not accepted as rape even, though still it stands as an exception measuring the age factor of the victim, i.e. the wife. Since the year 2002, the Legal Authorities of different countries, though very reluctantly, has started to change the outlook in this regard.
“Custodial Rape” constitutes another category referring to sexual intercourse committed by a man with a woman who is under his custody. According to the criminal proceeding there can be three kinds of custodial rape. Sexual intercourse by (a) policeman in police custody; (b) doctor or other hospital staff in the hospital; (c) managerial staff of the jail, remand homes like orphanage/ child institution(s)/ nari-niketans, etc.
Legal System and Rape
Rape is definitely an act of power-play. But the game of power play does not stop with the end of the particular act. The consequent actions, particularly the follow-up actions in case of rape involving the police and the legal system for have displayed the crudest form of politics associated with the issue. Rape itself is a traumatic experience for a women and in the course of trial the victim has to undergo further trauma adding to the misery more. The rape victim is ill-treated and stigmatized everywhere in the world by majority of the police officers, lawyers and judges. Law is strictly restricted in its capacity to deliver gender justice, which in itself is contingent on the nature of law and its functioning. The Promises of law not carried properly in actions. That is why law as legislation and law and practice are in contradiction with each other in most of the time in dealing with such cases.
It can also be said that in every rape trial the women undergoes available rape in the name of judicial verification and the judicial discourse that objectifies and sexualisation her body further.
The rape is the crudest form of assault on the woman by abusing her sexuality. Until the beginning of the anti-rape movement in the 1980s or more specifically since the late 1970s is, rape was by and large an issue of the political parties and activist Groups for whom it was nothing more than a symbol of political and caste operation. After the extensive anti-rape Movement in the 1980 and subsequent minor, through noticeable, legal reforms also are made we find that the campaign against anti-rape largely subscribe to the traditional notion of rate as the ultimate violation of a women reducing her to a state 'worse than death'. Till date the concept of rape fails to transient the conservative definition of penis penetration of vagina by a man who is not her husband. This closed outlook, with the support of legal and administrative system, symbolises the victory of patriarchy and strengthens the stumbling block towards the emancipation of the women as a whole and reinstatement of the individual rape victim.
Rape is a multidimensional socio-political problem and something even its different dimensions are contradictory to each other. For the political activists rape is a sexual violence which is a paragraph active of the men in the government police Administration and army. But in reality a large number of women are raped every day at work on the streets in the field and at their workplace, in their homes by men who are their employer’s acquaintances, relatives, in-laws, blood relations and husbands. So, every case of rape involves either of the two categories. If she is raped by the 'others' - outsiders - the police, landlord, Army it is easier to launch the struggle and to seek redressal. But when it is committed by the insiders definitely separate implication is added to the episode and the things become more Complex. In the Indian society which place is very high value on the concept of extended family system and kinship the subject of interest is a great taboo. In most of such cases it goes under ported and unrecognised and the victims are compelled to take part in the conspiracy of silence.
A possible attempt to ameliorate the lot of the rape victims could be by having the trial of the rape cases being heard by women Judges, the trial to be completed within a short span of time, preferably less than a year, the Investigation to be conducted at the victim’s residence or a place of her choice, and proceedings being held in camera.
Navin Kumar Jaggi
Gurmeet Singh Jaggi