Why are Indian and Pakistani men hell-bent on perpetuating sexual terrorism?

Published: July 24, 2016
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An activist holds a banner during a march against domestic violence against women, marking International Women's Day in Beirut March 8, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

Another day, another news report about a horrific rape that once again highlights the distance India has to travel to ensure true equality, freedom, and justice for its women.

In this latest incident, a 21-year-old was gang raped again by the same five men who had raped her three years ago. This incident is beyond outrageous and is a measure of the abject failure of the law and order machinery in ensuring that justice is served and all perpetrators of sexual crimes are punished appropriately.

Out of the five original rapists, two were apparently out on bail and three had never been arrested. It gets worse. The girl’s family was being threatened and pressured to withdraw the case. So you have five rapists moving around freely and threatening their victim, while the authorities sat around twiddling their thumbs, granting bail to two and professing to not being able to track the other three.

Four years after the Nirbhaya case and some sort of a mass awakening against the horrors of sexual assault, India still seems to be indifferent towards enforcing strict and harsh punishment for rape. How else can you explain that even three years after the crime, the case had not been concluded and the two rapists were out on bail?

If the two arrested men had been handed exemplary punishment the first time round, would they or their accomplices have dared to repeat the act? Furthermore, the three absconders hadn’t disappeared into thin air obviously. They were very much around, threatening the victim and her family, and ultimately indulging in the act of rape again. The police, with all the resources available to them, could have quite easily exerted some extra effort to apprehend them.

Politicians have compelled cops to work extra hard to catch buffalo thieves in the past, so arresting rapists really should not be particularly hard if the intent is there. Alas, the intent often seems missing.

You can have the strongest laws on the books, but if the will and mechanism to enforce them are absent, then they are worthless. That is why rapists continue to rape with impunity and everyday there are new stories, more women violated, more lives destroyed.

This vicious cycle is no less than sexual terrorism. When exactly one half of your population lives in the constant fear of being attacked, it is no less than terrorism. Women in all of South Asia face this uncertainty and lack of safety. A terror attack is destructive and shatters one’s faith and sense of security, just like a sexual assault.

Just as terrorism stymies the progress of societies, sexual terrorism imposes severe constraints and penalties on women. Fear of bomb blasts and shootings impacts investments and spending in the economy, while the threat of rape impacts women’s social and economic contributions to the economy and society. A truly vibrant society is only possible when both these scourges are defeated.

Women have suffered for centuries. Men have used them for sexual gratification, as spoils of war, and as symbols of honour, without consideration for their individuality, identity, or desires. While many parts of the world are gradually breaking free from this brutal past, South Asia’s progress is still tentative as it staggers along the path to gender equality.

Salman Khan’s recent ‘raped woman’ comment is a classic example of how sexual assault is trivialised by society. While he has a history of insensitivity, most people across the country did not see the comment as being improper either.

Similarly, Mulayam Singh Yadav, a powerful politician in the state of UP, has also made remarks that reflect the seemingly widely prevalent patriarchal and misogynistic view.

When such influential and powerful men treat rape so casually, it is natural for society as a whole to mirror those attitudes. The fact that these men enjoy significant clout is a clear reflection of how society thinks.

The opposition to the women’s protection bill in Pakistan is another facet of the same socio-cultural issue. Women’s safety and equality must be non-negotiable. Qandeel Baloch’s murder by her own brother for tarnishing family honour is essentially a manifestation of the mind-set that considers women as inferior creatures and as the property of their male guardians.

It is time that South Asia emerged from this morass of medieval thinking. Because misogyny is so deep-rooted and widespread in society, it will take a top down effort to hasten the pace of change.

There needs to be zero tolerance for any kind of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment or eve teasing as it is known in this part of the world, to sexual assault. If harassment goes unpunished or unchallenged, it emboldens the perpetrator. Similarly, if one rapist goes unpunished, it encourages other potential rapists.

Harsh punishment, the kind that makes an example out of the perpetrator, will help break this vicious cycle. Very public and visible campaigns to sensitise young men must be launched to promote reformed thinking. However, positive reinforcement alone is insufficient; it has to be accompanied by deterrence. Clearly spelling out the consequences of such acts, and ensuring that the perpetrator suffers those consequences, will help reduce the appeal of such brutish behaviour.

A rapist values his masculinity the most. In his mind, his penis empowers him and is what sets him apart from his victim, the female. The threat of a direct blow to his masculinity is the biggest deterrent. It is therefore time for South Asian countries to think about introducing castration as a punishment for sexual crimes.

This two-pronged approach will go a long way in enhancing the status of women in the region. The state must put its weight behind the objective of protecting them and guaranteeing them a level playing field, just as it did when trying to find the minister’s missing cattle.

South Asia’s abysmal social indicators will also see a healthy improvement if women’s talents and abilities are nurtured and harnessed positively. An environment that allows women to step out freely – without the fear to study and work – will see them increasing their contribution to social productivity significantly. Societies across the globe have benefited from women’s presence and influence in the public sphere.

It’s difficult, but not impossible, and fortunately there is a critical mass of people who want progressive ideas to take root in this part of the world as well and will support any initiatives to further that cause. Governments and leaders owe it to all right thinking people in their constituencies to create the conditions that liberate women from the sexual terrorism that thwarts their potential and restricts their space.

Amit Nangia

Amit Nangia

The author is a learning and development professional with a background in finance and human resources that informs his commentaries on geopolitical and socioeconomic trends. He tweets as @amitnangia06 (twitter.com/amitnangia06)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • CHARLIE HEBDO

    Its the mindset and mentality, when a women progresses, men cant stand.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    I will talk about muslim men here.I have learnt extensively about them and their behaviour.They hardly consider women specially non-muslim human .Rather a commodity of possession they can use and throw.Their religion commands them to do so.Heck they donot even respect women from their own community.For the same reason shahid afridi recommends women to cook food and wear burqua.Visit muslimblogspot .com ,you will embarrass to read their posts and fascination about hindu women. Wonder what kind of family culture they r brought up in.They r all for religion and numbers.You rape their women either in kashmir and muzaffarnagar,they r not bothered.what they r bothered about is to put other community in trouble and force them to accept islam.They abduct hindu women in pakistan and force them to convert.They have same urge to do so in india
    .this sums up muslim men and their mindsets behind sexual terrorism as you say.Recommend

  • Wajahat Shafi

    what abt the rape of Kashmirs women by indian army, will u write on it too?Recommend

  • rationalist

    I hope you would also feel similar compassion and ask the author to write about the 400,000 Bengali women raped by the Pakistani army in 1971.Recommend

  • Nana

    ‘Castration’ – I like the idea. Let’s implement it across the board for all rapes, proven judicially.Recommend

  • Humza

    I agree that women’s rights need to be strengthened in Pakistan but Pakistan does not have the systemic rape problem of India. It is unfair to link Qandeel Baloch’s sad death by a disturbed brother for supposed honor with hundreds of daily rapes that go on in India. There is a reason why India is called the rape capital of the world. Indian authorities need to stop it and deal with the root cause of male frustration in India. Pakistan has to enact tougher laws on family members who engage in violence against women for supposed honor. I am hopeful that Maryam Nawaz’s initiative will be successful so that the scourge of so called dishonour killings against women stop.Recommend

  • Ghulam Lone

    Men are threatened by successful women. Even though Desi men are generally lazy, they don’t want a woman to work hard be more successful because it challenges the arbitrary (and false) supremacy of men. It’s a sign of insecurity and stupidity. Womens liberation is the need of the hour, and I am convinced extremism and terrorism will reduce as women are heard. After all, 99.9% of terrorists are men, not women. We men should be ashamed of ourselves for the sorry state of affairs in the country because it is truly our fault, and not the women’s fault. They are better at getting things done productively.Recommend

  • Milind A

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about. The rapes happening in India are far less than the rapes in Muslim world.. its just that they’re been discussed in a free press, that makes it appear as if India is at the top of the list. In Muslim countries even boys are raped, which is not yet happening in India. The Durex condom survey conducted has India at the 8th spot in the most sexually satisfied countries. None of the Muslim countries are in the top 20-50, I presume. Also check the google searches and you will see how frustrated your guys are.Recommend

  • beholder

    Dear Shafi,
    There must have been stray cases of rapes alleged to Indian Army and yes there must be truth in it but again these are stray cases and army has taken stern action. But you seem to be victim to Pakistani propaganda as if such things are happening day in and day out which is far from truth.Recommend

  • Nana

    Oh yes, Hindus are all avatar, devtas, daivian and daasian. Not even a single rotten apple, WOW! Narcissistic personality evident.Recommend

  • LS

    These are UN stats on Rape from year 2010: Unit is # of rapes per 100,000 women.

    1) South Africa 132.4
    2) Botswana 92.9
    3) Sweden 63.5
    4) Nicaragua 31.6
    5) Grenada 30.6
    6) Pakistan* 28.8
    7) Saint Kitts & Nevis 28.6
    8) Australia 28.6
    9) Panama * 28.3*
    10) Belgium 27.9
    11) USA 27.3
    :
    India 0.4

    For statistically challenged people… This is the Source.

    http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime/CTS12_Sexual_violence.xls

    And this

    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Imran_Sajid5/publication/268871149_Violence_Against_Women_in_Pakistan_Constraints_in_Investigation_and_Data_Collection/links/5479d9400cf205d1687fa9c5.pdfRecommend

  • Lugger Smith

    http://www.indialivetoday.com/pakistani-doctor-accused-molesting-16-year-old-came-clinic/15419.html
    Pakistani rapes 16 year old patient so yeah pakistan has a rspe problem bro, your eay more frustrated then indianRecommend

  • Sane

    You Indians need to address the problem, the current issue you are facing and known as Rapist Country of the world. Yesterday also an Israeli woman was raped. By the way your PM Modi is still in the list of top criminals of the world.Recommend

  • Milind A

    Your entire nation was founded by a gang of criminals and based on bloodshed. This was repeated in 1971..Recommend

  • Avid

    Obnoxious… Where Did you find word “Pakistan” in the UN Data? India is present in all sort of Sexuals voilence in your own presented stats, While for the second link.. Did u bear Reading ? Face the reality that it is india which is RAPE CAPITAL OF OUR PLANETRecommend

  • oats

    Your nation was a gift from the British because only the British came and gave you freedom from centuries of foreign rule. Think before you speak. The biggest criminals were Gandhi and Nehru Recommend

  • Nana

    Read Ashok Raina’s ‘inside RAW’ to find out the truth.Recommend

  • LS

    did you even read the report attached specifically for pakistan?

    I read it and thus there were TWO links… READ Again..Recommend

  • LS

    Despite reading the UN report you have galls to say India is RAPE CAPITAL of Planet?

    You are most delusional person ever known in the world…

    That report simply Highlights the REGISTERED CASES the same NGO’s pegged the un-registered cases because the LAW requires them to produce 4 male witnesses…

    The actual cases far exceeds even the #28 Rapes per 100,000. The same report says that on an average there are average 5 rapes every day and as many sexual Assault cases. That itself makes makes that count 3650 such cases every year (with only 5% of cases being reported). For crying out loud your country does not even have a national crime database.

    Even with the recorded statistics of 3650 sexual assaults per year it is still higher than India…

    Even if I consider the sex ratio as 1:1 (which isn’t the case) there are still 3.88 Sexual Assaults per 100,000 women compared to 0.4 for India. Which is almost 10 times higher than India…

    Recommend

  • Sane

    Well everything in Pakistan is not okay, but things are improving significantly with good speed. Lot of issues are there in India, requiring to address immediately. Recommend

  • Khan

    Excellent article…at first, I thot calling it a terrorism was farf-fecthed, but whole-heartedly agree. It really is that. And never thot that someone would vocally support castration as a deterrence tool; it may be exploited and should be strictly linked to evidence which is documented for public record too, to ensure transparency or compensated with an equally strong equivalent of incarceration….lifetime, trackered, put on their public profile….. Less serious cases are filed as non-bailable offences and while people roam on bail against such a serious allegation where you ensure you have let a serial demon out in the public to wreak greater havoc again.Recommend

  • Wajahat Shafi
  • Wajahat Shafi

    from u get ur figure?Recommend