Sexual assault is the new name for rape. Rape by any other name is still rape. This crude word denotes a cruel, barbaric, and inhuman act. Any type of word play does not diminish the traumatic effect of this heinous crime, certainly not by indulging in euphemisms. In an effort to shield the perpetrator, some US campuses have resorted to using ‘sexual assault’ instead of ‘rape.’ On a student’s record the ugly word ‘rape’ might diminish his future prospects. The poor boy might miss out on his chance to join the ranks of Wall Street, to indulge in another form of rape and pillage.
Tag Archives | Rape
This month, the first of what are arguably the two most important trials in the short history of the International Criminal Court (ICC) began. Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, is accused of crimes against humanity (murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution) allegedly committed in Kenya in the context of the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
He is the first high office holder to appear at the Court. In the second trial, scheduled to begin in November this year, Kenya’s newly elected President, Uhuru Kenyatta, will also contest accusations of crimes against humanity (murder, deportation, rape and persecution), also allegedly committed in the context of post-election violence. As a backdrop to all of this, not only did Kenyan members of parliament vote to approve a motion to leave the ICC, the African Union has called a special summit to discuss a mass withdrawal from the ICC in protest at Ruto trial.
Is the ICC, as accused in May of this year by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, guilty of “hunting Africans”? And can the Court fulfill its aim of a truly global institution of criminal justice when global powers (the United States, Russia, China) and emerging powers (India, Indonesia) not only refuse to ratify the Rome Statute (the Court’s governing treaty), but appear beyond the reach of the Court’s justice?
Rape is a crime against humanity, in the literal sense of its meaning, irrespective of the presence of an armed conflict where international humanitarian law (IHL) can be applied. India has experienced violent separatist movements since the Naga insurgency in the 1950’s followed by other states in the northeast like Assam, Mizoram and Manipur, and in the nineties in Kashmir.
When the civil administration collapsed armed forces were brought in to establish law and order, and for its operational efficiency and legitimacy the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was entitled to them. But the forces that were brought in to protect the people, allegedly committed acts of crimes against women including rape, and were unpunished due to the immunity guaranteed from judicial prosecution by the act called AFSPA. This was when the people in parts of India lost faith in the armed forces.
The brutal gang-rape of a young girl in Delhi on 16th of December, 2012, prompted a committee to be constituted following immense public outcry, to look into possible amendments of the Criminal Law to provide better justice to the victims of sexual assault of extreme nature. The three-member committee led by Justice J.S. Verma did a commendable job by issuing a report in just a month. The report included a section on protection of women in conflict zones. The report suggests that AFSPA, like legal protocols, needs to be reviewed immediately, and strongly recommends that any sexual violence against women by armed forces or uniformed personnel must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law.
Rape is heinous, savage and traumatic which leaves lifelong scars and is a complete violation of a women’s self-respect and dignity leaving not only her permanent physically injury but also with incurable mental scars. This explains why many social scientists consider rape to be driven by the need for dominance and control of men over women.
However, evolutionary biologists are more inclined to believe that rape is more about sex than dominance and control. In either case, sex does play a role, particularly in a sexually repressed society like India where even in a protest march against rape men reportedly gazed at women in the crowd with uninvited glances. It is in this context that the death of the rape victim who was a promising medical student at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore in the early hours on December 29th, that people are expressing popular outrage demanding capital punishment for all the accused.
There is a significant lack of any able and determined leadership in Indian from the top down. India does have it’s successes but in the case of this young woman, the Indian government failed her and has also failed women across India. There is has been virtually no support for Indian women from any of our national political leaders or from powerful organizations like Trade Unions, Students Unions or social and religious organizations. Since public memory happens to be very short, the initial shock has now subsided which is unfortunate. However, steps may be considered for effective safeguards for the security of women as well as for investigation that should convict those who are guilty of this heinous crime.
The year 2012 ended very badly for India. The violent and sustained rape of a 23-year-old woman by a gang of youths in Delhi before the eyes of someone who, according to reports, she was to marry is a particularly gruesome act. That it happened in an upmarket area of the Indian capital was worse. It has serious implications for the nation’s reputation in the eyes of the world. The brutal assault on the couple, and the events leading up to the woman’s death at a Singapore hospital, has been one of the most widely covered topics outside India about the country, and rightly so. When a crime prompts the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to castigate India, and to remind the government that “every girl and woman has the right to be respected, valued and protected,” it must be taken as a matter of national shame.
While many Indians have reacted with anger and shame, some responses have been either thoughtless, or given the impression of shameless male chauvinism that infects society. It is sad, though not entirely surprising, to see that several of these expressions have come from the higher echelons, including the country’s ruling class. Rape is a crime that has to do with power, exercised in a particularly brutal and humiliating manner on a fellow human. To blame the victim, or to be non-committal about the issue of personal safety, is surely to abandon public responsibility. Such behavior by responsible people, let alone elected officials, cannot engender confidence in the justice system, and society at large.
A subdued atmosphere into the New Year was the least essential after an outrage of such enormity. It is not that the outrage was unique, for further cases of assault on women, even girls, have happened before and since. It was the image that said it all––a young female student, going with her fiancé, attacked, raped and thrown off the bus in the heart of the Indian capital. Demonstrations across India, and a national debate highly critical of the authorities everywhere, are a sign of the public mood. What were perceived as official attempts at offering feeble excuses and buck passing in the first few days contributed to the widespread anger.
If a campaign can self-destruct in an inferno of imbecility, then this must surely provide a good recipe for it. Aiken’s grasp of reality, at least when it comes to those of the opposite gender, is slim, caricatured and severe. Enter then, the disastrous move that requires a contrition tour to rival that of Bill Clinton, the antics of Congressman Todd Akin and his remark about “legitimate” rape. For Aiken, Mitt Romney backer, promoter and slugger, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. [Pregnancy] But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
This is familiar territory for Aiken, who is a devotee of that line of thinking that Medicaid funding should be only applied to abortions in cases of “forcible rape”. He sponsors bills to that effect, and has a coterie of zealous followers. That rape might itself have its own taxonomy would be remarkable, even for Akin.
Individuals such as Dr. John C. Willke, who promoted the idea in the mid-1980s that rape, given its awe-inspiring brutality doesn’t lead to conception, share the curious pattern of thinking that afflicts the Missouri representative. For Willke, a woman might well be “uptight” in the face of such a traumatic encounter. “The tubes,” he has stated rather graphically in a treatise lacking an iota of scientific merit, “are spastic.” In an article in the Life Issues Connector (April 1999), Willke claims that, “Assault rape pregnancies are extremely rare.” In the lurid figures he proceeds to recount, he finds few conceptions to warrant a mention. Women, strange creatures, dare not conceive before the invasions of the molesting phallus.
It is like something out of a movie: deep in the archives of a war torn country a team of intrepid scientists discovers forgotten maps leading to buried treasure. Fantastical as it seems, such a scene played out in 2004 when American geologists found a cache of charts in the Afghan Geological Survey’s library dating from the days of Soviet occupation.
Returned to the library after the NATO invasion, these Russian charts were protected in geologists’ homes through the tumultuous 1990s’ and for good reason: the data indicated under Afghanistan’s mountains and dry plains lay vast mineral deposits. Guided by Soviet charts, aerial surveys in 2006 and 2007 covered 70% of the county and produced the most comprehensive geologic study in Afghan history and estimate the nation’s untapped mineral wealth at $1 trillion. Today the Afghan government believes this wealth buried in their rugged provinces could exceed $3 trillion, but as frequently asked of buried treasure: is it cursed?
Afghanistan’s mineral resources are hard to underestimate and current projections border on the hyperbolic. In June, 2010, the Pentagon confirmed reports that Afghanistan’s massive deposits could make it a major world producer of iron and copper. The lithium deposits in Ghanzi Province may rival Bolivia’s for the title of world’s largest. The country’s Samti gold deposit is estimated to hold 20-24 metric tons and according to the US Geological Survey a single million ton deposit of rare earth elements (REE) in Helmand Province gives Afghanistan the world’s sixth largest REE reserves.
The war between East and West Pakistan in 1971 lasted only nine months. But the atrocities were cowering – an estimated three million people dead, 400,000 women raped, 600,000 children killed, and scores of targeted intellectuals slaughtered in an attempt to cripple East Pakistan’s social and cultural backbone.
Besides politics, atrocities against the people of East Pakistan by the West Pakistani army stemmed from ethnic hatred. In his book, Death by Government, R. J. Rummel wrote, “Bengalis were often compared with monkeys and chickens.” It was a statement West Pakistani General Niazi once made about how he viewed the people of East Pakistan. The dead are long gone. But many of the rape victims still bear scars from shame and loss of their dignity. The government of Pakistan has not yet apologized for its crime against humanity, much less has it shown any remorse for the rape victims. Former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf came close to apologizing for the atrocities of 1971.
During his visit to the National War Memorial in Savar, a city 50 km from Dhaka, in 2002, he merely expressed his regrets for the “excesses committed” by the West Pakistan army. That was about as close as the Pakistani government came to offering penitence for the horrific acts of 1971. Soon after the war, West Pakistan published a report on the 1971 war. While the report acknowledged that the West Pakistan army took part in “senseless” and “deliberate” killings of the civilians, businessmen, intellectuals, and Hindus and “raping” of a “large number” of East Pakistani women as an act of “revenge,” it deliberately justified their acts. It also blamed Awami League, the political party that advocated for an independent East Pakistan, for the “provocation” of the West Pakistan army to commit these “alleged” acts.
In Central America, the Peace Corps is getting leaner.
The organization has recently announced that it will be pulling out of Honduras. The Peace Corps has also put a hold on sending new training groups to Guatemala and El Salvador. There is no question that these countries are dangerous. Honduras, for example, has a murder rate of nearly 82 people per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest in the world. The safety of Peace Corps volunteers has been an intensely debated topic on Capitol Hill recently. Earlier this year, the House and Senate unanimously passed the Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act of 2011.
This is an important bill for which Congress deserves praise, but, it does little to address volunteer safety and deals more with how the Peace Corps should respond after an incident has already occurred. Furthermore, total safety is an illusion; people need to understand that. According to ABC, “The bill requires the Peace Corps to improve the training of volunteers to reduce sexual assault risk, would protect whistleblowers, and would require the Peace Corps to hire victims’ advocates for each region the agency serves.”
Late last week, President Obama announced that he was ordering 100 armed advisors to be sent to central Africa to bolster efforts on the ground to combat Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) operating in Uganda and neighboring countries. For years, the LRA has systematically used rape as a weapon, burned villages to the ground, killed countless unarmed civilians and taken as prisoner, young girls, to act as sex slaves for Kony and his followers. Additionally, the LRA has forced many of its young prisoners to take up arms against their countrymen.
Originating in Uganda over two decades ago, the LRA under the leadership of Joseph Kony, a cultlike personality, has spread its activities into neighboring South Sudan, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and eastern Central African Republic (CAR). What differentiates the group from other rebel groups throughout modern history is that it operates without clear political objectives and is notable for its fondness for committing rape, abducting children and enlisting them as child soldiers and the indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians.
As the Peace Corps turns fifty, now is an auspicious time to discuss Peace Corps reform.
With annual expenses of less than $500 million, the organization costs little when considered in the broader budgetary debate on Capitol Hill. Over the past ten years, two disparate narratives have encompassed most talk surrounding the organization. The first has to do with Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) safety. The second issue has to do with inadequate funding. First, the claims that the Peace Corps is not doing enough to keep volunteers safe are, for the most part, baseless. Many of the rules designed to make PCVs safer are either ineffectual or counterproductive.
Is there risk in joining the Peace Corps? Absolutely. But people are also at risk when they drive to work, cross the street, go skiing and pass through Manhattan’s Riverside Park late at night. Bad things happen. Women volunteers are at greater risk than men for obvious reasons, but that does not mean that Peace Corps Safety and Security policies are always placing PCVs in imminent danger. Many times these rules are just annoying hoops that PCVs jump through until they start to ignore them.
In April, Pakistan’s Supreme Court struck a death knell to the rights of women in a country whose rape rates jumped by double digits last year.
In the face of overwhelming evidence, hundreds of witnesses, and even a signed confession, the court, all men, acquitted five out of the six men convicted of the gang rape of a lone woman. The decision marked a bitter end to the victim’s decade long struggle for justice, during which time she endured harassment, illegal detainment, and psychological torture.
Today, I write as a Pakistani mother’s son to voice my outrage over Mukhtar Mai’s case. This story is personal for me, and is personal for all sons who have mothers, and all brothers who have sisters. The story of Mukhtar Mai is that of all women-and men-who have experienced or witnessed sexual violence.