Friday, February 1, 2008

How to punish the victim, again and again and again

Opt for marriage or get jail term: Court to rape accused, Indian Express, February 1, 2008.

For the second time in the last couple of years, a court has regarded marriage between a rapist and his victim a suitable conclusion for charges of rape.

There are so many things so very wrong with this point of view.

1. Rape is not a crime of passion; it is an act of violence perpetrated on the body of the victim. Such a judgment completely fails to recognize rape as violence. The victim by its reckoning is to live with the person who traumatized her once, for the rest of her life.

2. What makes rape heinous is its violence, not its violation of patriarchal codes of chastity.
If the latter were in fact the problem, then marrying the rapist and the victim would make sense because in the eyes of patriarchal societies, the victim is then soiled and spoiled for other men. So the rapist must atone by taking on the goods he has soiled, sparing other men and saving the honour of the family of the soiled.
Tamil usage reflects this view: karppu adaippu for rape (effacement of chastity) and the use of 'kedututaan' (he has spoiled) or 'kettu poitta' (she has been spoiled) to describe rape in the course of conversation.
The victim here is patriarchal society and it is thus compensated for the crime committed.

3. Who is punished by such court judgments, the rapist or the victim?
It seems the court regards marrying the victim to be a punishment for the rapist, man to man. After all, notwithstanding his part in creating the situation, the rapist must live with spoilt goods all his life.
It must also consider the victim compensated because the greatest part of the crime was not the traumatic act of violence she suffered but the fact that no one else will marry her.

If this is justice, the original act of violence seems benign!

When will acts of violence against women be recognized as acts of violence and when will all of us, in equal measure, see that justice does not further punish the victim?