by Srila Roy, author of New South Asian Feminisms
|Available now from Zed Books|
Rape is not exceptional but routine in most parts of the world. The fact that a twenty-three-year-old student, Jyoti, was brutally gang raped on a bus — leading to her death — in India’s capital city, New Delhi, is not shocking. This is after all a country in which rape is used as mode of policing women’s access to public spaces, as a tool of disciplining lower caste women and putting women of minority communities “in their place,” as part of the privilege enjoyed by married men (marital rape is not recognized in Indian law), and the legal impunity bestowed on the Indian army in conflict zones. The routine nature of violence against women is made possible by social structures and institutions that immediately suggests — as feminists long have — the inadequacy of understanding rape as “a crime of sex.” Rape is not about sex, they have cried, but power — caste, class and state power.
Lest we think that such violence is a “problem” of the developing South (attributable to “tradition” and/or “culture”), the truth is that it is prevalent everywhere. Advanced industrialized countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are no exceptions in normalizing sexual violence through a culture of blaming the victim, misogynistic policing and legal systems that lead to low conviction rates, the general apathy of the political class — and even the mainstream left — to what are exclusively seen as “women’s issues,” objectifying women in the media while glorifying machismo, and silencing sexual violence when it occurs in the confines of the home and family. All of these factors contribute to what feminists have rightly termed “rape culture” through which rape is rendered everyday and not extraordinary. Routine, not exceptional. [Click here to read full article]