22 April 2018

[Links] Rape, the Death Penalty, and the General (In)Effectiveness of Our Responses to Rape

Over at Scroll, I argue that advocating the death penalty is not an appropriate response to rape, and it completely ignores our own role in facilitating not only rape but also other forms of abuse, all of which exist on a continuum. Although it's easily implementable, there's no convincing evidence that the death penalty will stem rape. It stinks of retribution, is always susceptible to irreversible error, disproportionately targets those without privilege, violates decency, and is expensive.
Rape is itself largely a manifestation of toxic masculinity. [....] Putting rapists to death, [the possibility of which may not deter them from committing rape], reeks of machismo and patriarchy. In a society that routinely creates the impression that women are destroyed by rape, death for rape simply realises the old norm of an eye for an eye. It is a form of retributive justice in an age when justice is meant to be reformative. [....] If we are to address rape, we need to develop legal processes to report and prosecute rape that are easy to navigate and which would increase the likelihood of rapists being held to account. We also need to interrogate social processes and challenge defences of abuse across the spectrum particularly within our own social circles. What we require is an alternative paradigm that is independent of toxic masculinity. We need to hold not just abusers to account but also those who support them and thereby facilitate abuse. That process, more often than not, will require us to begin by taking a long, hard look in the mirror.
Read the whole piece here at Scroll.



Regardless of our politics, and regardless of whether we speak using the language justice and human rights or using language peppered with expletives, our responses to abuse too often tend to have the same effect. And that effect is not to curb abuse or to make life easier for those who have been abused.

There have, of course, been plenty of critiques which speak of how feminism is easily co-opted by capitalism. However, there haven't been quite as many, especially within India, about how the language of human rights can, perhaps unintentionally, advocate the denial of human rights. I'm increasingly convinced that this deserves more consideration in our day-to-day lives, which is why I've spoken of how the problems with our responses to rape are not about our politics both here, and in a piece published at Asia Times a few days ago.

There, I argued that we've developed a set of unchanging go-to responses we turn to whenever we're faced with a well-publicised case of rape. We ask for the death penalty to be meted out to rapists. We discuss the rape in intrusive detail claiming that doing so "raises awareness" against rape and awakens our social consciences. And we decide that we want sex offenders to be listed in a registry. Unfortunately, not one of these responses is guaranteed to enhance women's safety.

Specifically with reference to speech:
Our second demand invariably involves wanting the freedom to reveal the identities of those raped in violation of the law that protects victim identities, along with the freedom to narrate graphic details of the crime. [....] While the rationale underlying the law may well be problematic, it would appear to be just as problematic, if not more so, to strip victims of the right to keep their identities private if they so choose. [....] The law merely keeps the choice from being made by random third parties who would, if they were to make independent decisions in this regard, almost certainly violate the agency of those who have survived rape.
Read the whole piece over at Asia Times.


(This note contains edited tweets and jumbled up extracts from the articles. Updated on 24 April 2018 to include ref. to both articles in one post.)

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