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Friday, November 23, 2007

Victim of Rape - Guilty as charge

Sunday 25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Governments, international organizations and NGOs are encouraged to organize activities designated to raise public awareness of the problem. From the day we are born, women in all countries and from all backgrounds are subjected to various forms of violence, simply because we are women. The type and severity of violence vary, ranging from structural violence, e.g. sexism, to direct violence such as rape.

The case of the 19 year old victim of gang rape in Saudia Arabia shocked the world this week. In addition to being gang raped, this girl was being punished with 90 lashes because she had met with an unrelated man at the time of the rape. The amount was then doubled (!)because she spoke out in media. Horrendous.

But sadly, it is a universal phenomenon that victims of sexual violence are being punished when the rapists are released. A raped woman needs to have four male eye witnesses in order to have her complaints considered in Pakistan. Raped women are being convicted for adultery, imprisoned or socially ostracised to extents where suicide appears to be the only solution.

Yes, but only in fundamental countries with old fashioned laws, many would say.

But here in the “West” too are women being held responsible for sexual crimes committed against them. Victims of rape are being blamed in court and by society. Rape is possibly the only crime where the burden of proof lies on the victim. You have all heard it; prove that you said NO! Leave marks! Scream! Don’t walk home alone in the dark! And for God’s sake do not wear a short skirt if you do! Can you imagine the same reasoning for other crimes? “So, Mr X when you went to see Germany – UK, did you not consider the high risk of getting your face smashed by football hooligans?”

Yes girls are told at an early age not to put themselves in a situation that may provoke men to give in to their sexual lusts. Ironically, since being a woman apparently is enough to provoke sexual violence. How to avoid that situation? Sex change?

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