Wounding human dignity

Rape is a soul-degrading crime and must be dealt with all seriousness and severity



The  misplaced masculine bravado that, shamelessly,  marks the  unending spate of rape incidents in Haryana, has brought to the fore  a need to study the etymology of the word ‘rape'. More so, because of the highly inappropriate responses of the state leaders – cutting across the party lines – to the commission of this   ghastly crime. The record, though, at the national level is equally dismal. Country wide, a woman is raped every 20 minutes.
 The origin of the word rape is in the Latin verb  ‘rapere ‘ which means  to seize or take by force. Sociologists  say rape is a violent act borne out of an aggressive urge to dominate the victim .  It is demonstration of power than a means of gratification. The  knowledgeable  say,   power and humiliation  are integral to the act rather than sexual fulfillment. No wonder, in his book  Men who rape – Psychology of the Offender  Nicholas Groth  describes rape as,  “Sexuality in the service of  non - sexual needs.”  In areas of conflict  the   definition  comes  out very  true .    Here, both state and non – state   actors  resort to the offense  more to conquer the psychological and aspirational areas than to satisfy the  bestial   instincts . Sometimes  it is used to wreak vengeance.  Towards the end of 20th   Century    world saw a significant increase in the use of rape as a weapon of war. In 1990 a tribunal investigating crime stemming from genocide in  Rwanda  held that rape and sexual  violence constituted  a form of genocide. What a travesty; along with  the purpose of  rape,   social profile of the rapist   has also  changed.
 Rape  is  something     more .  In  State  of  Punjab    v/s   Gurmit  Singh    (1996 ) 2 S  C  C  384 ,   the  Supreme Court pointed out ,   “Rape is not merely a physical assault – it is often destructive of the whole personality of the victim. A murderer destroys the physical body of his victim, a rapist degrades the very soul of the helpless female ….”     And then went on to say,  “ We must remember that a rapist not only violates the victim’s personal liberty, but inevitably causes serious psychological and physical harm in the process.”  Whenever    a rape is committed,  this observation     is sufficient  to invoke   Article 5 of Universal  Declaration  Of Human Rights which says , “ No one shall be subjected to torture, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.”    Women rights are, indeed,  human rights.  Rape is   undoubtedly  an act of utmost depravity,   often  used as  a weapon of terror against women.  Therefore, according to Amartya Sen,     elimination of  this kind of fear of terrorism reasonably  falls  within the concerns of human   rights.
There is a clamour for having more stringent laws to deal with the sexual offenders. May be so. But  experience tells us that in most cases  laws alone   don’t  work  effectively.  The wicked would always  find ways and means to get away with the crime .  Plato   noted   long  ago, “ Good people  do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while the bad people will find a way around the laws.”  But then   requirement of appropriate law, with commensurate deterrence,  can’t be ignored.Though one would  tend to agree with Amartya Sen in this regard . “  The protection of human rights would have to be sought elsewhere, for example through the influence of education and  public discussion on civility and social conduct .”  
Nicholas Groth  suggests a way out to arrest the scourge of the sexual offence.  He says punishment for the rapist should be fearsome. But the rape should be  de -stigmatised as that is the only  way to rob the rapists of their sense of control and power. Would it work?  Given the   continued enlargement of areas of the conflict, - worldwide,  as of now,  there can be no  satisfactory answer to it.
There is  an urgent need to shed societal apathy and insensitivity   towards the rape victims   and show zero tolerance to the crime. At the same time,  along with the culprits, the callous leaders who condone the dastardly  crime as a  consensual act should also  be’ named and shamed '.

(B L  Saraf is Former  Pr District & Sessions Judge)

Lastupdate on : Tue, 23 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 23 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST

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