Insights into Editorial: The roots of sexual brutality
A vital part of understanding a social problem, and a precursor to preventing it, is an understanding of what causes it.
Research on the causes of violence against women has consisted of two lines of inquiry:
- Examination of the characteristics that influence the behaviour of offenders and
- Consideration of whether some women have a heightened vulnerability to victimization.
India is not alone when it comes to high rates of incidence of rape. But many believe patriarchy and a skewed sex ratio may be making matters worse. There is public apathy as well: the rights and security of women never become election issues.
In India, in 2016, of the 3.38 lakh crime cases against women, rape cases made up 11.5% of them. But with only 1 in 4 rape cases ending up in conviction, it’s a painfully slow road to justice for rape victims in the country.
As the young woman from Unnao, victim of multiple outrages, battles for her life, we, who are often reduced to being hapless chroniclers, have once again to wonder at the everyday workings of India’s criminal justice system.
Though several rounds of police and judicial reforms have sought to improve its workings, and humanise its approach, the fact remains that at the level of the police thana, other factors direct police action.
Problem still exists at Root Levels:
Local political power; economic, social and sexual tensions between individuals; caste and community equations; habitual misogyny.
The measure of impunity that a perpetrator of crime might claim and exercise all shape not only police responses but those of the civilian government as well, including of doctors, revenue officers and those in the local Collectorate.
If damage happened to Women at grass-root level:
- If any women had gone sexual assault, if she persists in keeping with the justice system, its menacing indifference is calculated to demoralise her.
- If her family supports her, there might be some relief and care, but if they don’t or cannot because they are themselves under pressure to keep quiet, she is left feeling abandoned and friendless and, worse, tainted.
- Many a time, a protest or a campaign, or the continued presence of women’s groups, Dalit groups and progressive political and civil rights interventions alone have made it possible for even a FIR to be registered.
- Low status of women: Perhaps the biggest issue, though, is women’s overall lower status in Indian society.
- For poor families, the need to pay a marriage dowry can make daughters a burden. India has one of the lowest female-to-male population ratios in the world because of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide. Throughout their lives, sons are fed better than their sisters, are more likely to be sent to school and have brighter career prospects.
Reasons for assault on lower-strata women:
- Sexual brutality is thus not an afterthought: it is the quintessential form of political privilege and social authority in our social context.
- Verbal and physical acts of sexualised humiliation and violence directed at the lower castes and Dalits are necessary for the survival of caste society and increasingly so, in the face of challenges and resistance.
- Birth-based superiority, illegitimate as it is, cannot be sustained, unless it is renewed day in and day out through a combination of patent lies and brute force.
- Rape victims are often encouraged by village elders and clan councils to “compromise” with the family of accused and drop charges or even to marry the attacker.
- Such compromises are aimed at keeping the peace between families or clan groups. What’s more, a girl’s eventual prospects of marriage are thought to be more important than bringing a rapist to justice.
- India’s court system is painfully slow, in part because of a shortage of judges. The country has about 15 judges for every 1 million people, while China has 159. A Delhi high court judge once estimated it would take 466 years to get through the backlog in the capital alone.
Better understanding of the causes of violence against women will be useful in designing both prevention programs and interventions with offenders.
Research has begun to identify childhood precursors to later violent aggressive behaviour, and criminological research has studied the progression of criminal careers.
In recent days, Indian politicians have put forward a slew of potential remedies for India’s sexual violence problem. But it’s worth noting that it will be hard to end discrimination against women at police stations when it starts in the crib.
Oppression in all of its forms is among the root causes of sexual violence. Sexual violence is preventable through collaborations of community members at multiple levels of society in our homes, neighbourhoods, schools, faith settings, workplaces, and other settings.
Our criminal justice system is yet to reckon with such routinised and habitual criminality, for it is never quite registered as such.
We all play a role in preventing sexual violence and establishing norms of respect, safety, equality, and helping others.