By Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya –
A story titled, ‘Are Women to be Blamed for Rape?’ was published on Colombo Telegraph on May 26 and was written by Muhammed Fazl, ‘an independent social/political activist.’ The article provides a simplistic analysis of a complex problem and is also a chauvinistic and patriarchal take of a social issue.
You are relaxing by a swimming pool when you notice a female in a bikini. You look at her long enough to remember how her body looked when it was so scantily clad. A month later, you are walking on a street when you notice a different female. Her attire doesn’t matter, she could be covered head to toe in two layers or more, but you remember that bikini-clad female you saw by the pool. You rape the female walking on the street and the most you get as a punishment is counseling, because you have the defense of provocation. The lady in the bikini so obviously provoked you to rape a different female.
Sounds absolutely crazy, doesn’t it? And yet, this is a belief held by some, for instance the writer of a story that appeared in Colombo Telegraph recently. The author questions why females feel the need to wear thongs, bikinis or anything that’s not knee-length at a swimming pool.
Even today, there are people who firmly believe that when in public females should be dressed modestly. A female walking on the street while wearing a short skirt and a sleeveless blouse is said to be ‘asking for it.’ However, the author takes this to another level by expecting females to be in knee length clothing even at swimming pools.
If wearing bikinis make females vulnerable, don’t Speedos and cycling shorts make men vulnerable? Then shouldn’t people, regardless of their sex, be clad head to toe night and day to make sure they don’t ‘ask for it’?
“It is no secret that when skimpily clad woman or in a two piece bikini flaunts herself, it is always another vulnerable woman living somewhere else who ends up paying the ultimate price,” Muhammed Fazl writes. There is something radically wrong with a person if he can’t be in the company of females in swim wear and not stop himself from raping another female.
Most people would expect others to keep their emotions in check and think before they act. If you have an overwhelming urge to have sex just at the sight of a female, regardless of her outfit, you need to find release in a way that doesn’t violate or hurt anyone. The author writes, “the act of rape needs to be considered as a violation of a woman’s (in most cases) right to her body and honor, and not just as a forced sexual act…” and thus gives the reader a glimpse of hope that the writer will present a good case against rape only to later disappoint and disgust the reader.
Muhammed Fazl goes on to blame women themselves for being violated. One of the preventive measures he suggests is, “Would it also not be sensible/practical for women to be modestly dressed when in public as against educating or expecting the entire male species to ‘look-but-not-touch’?”
Muhammed Fazl mentions a weaker sex whose rights and honor should be protected. At first one would assume he is talking about females. However, once the reader reaches the end of the article, he/she begins to wonder if the weaker sex is in fact males, for Muhammed Fazl’s writing implies that they are too weak to stop themselves from raping a female. If by any chance, the writer was talking about males when he says, “Possible regular media campaigns in protecting the rights and honor of the weaker sex,” one also wonders why the guilty parties need to have their honor protected, especially when they didn’t hesitate to violate the honor of another.
The writer also speaks about the objectification of females and writes, “Adding insult to injury is when ‘educated’ ladies in the advertising sector objectify female models by making them don sexually arousing attire and for insisting on suggestive poses to sell wares and services of their clients.” First of all, it isn’t only females who work in the advertising sector, and it isn’t only the fault of females, educated or not, that people are objectified.
And even if models in arousing attires and suggestive poses are used in advertisements they are not a reason to rape. Such advertisements may affect how a female is viewed and men may disrespect females due to these advertisements but as has been repeated numerous times, a female’s attire is not a reason to rape her.
The author also contradicts himself by saying, “Data collected over the years from research statistics shows us how almost 80% of the victims knew their offenders. In this scenario, would it not make it a fertile ground for rape when women freely intermingle with little known male strangers especially when there does not exist a pressing need to do so?”
He says that 80 percent of the victims know their offenders and then go on to say that females shouldn’t intermingle with little known male strangers. The writer seems to believe that females should not associate with males, which is absolutely ridiculous. During a time when people are encouraged to mingle with people from other cultures, it is shocking that Muhammed Fazl believes that segregation is necessary between the sexes.
Throughout the article, the writer seems to blame females. Muhammed Fazl writes that a contributing factor to rape is “infidelity in relationships (on the part of their women).” It isn’t that men should know to behave and respect females, but females must dress modestly. It isn’t that people should stop raping others, but that females should stop associating men. While Muhammed Fazl seems somewhat critical of the death penalty, he seems to believe in, “enacting laws against immodesty in dress codes when in public and the possible implementation of laws against nudity and objectification of women for commercial gain on all formats of the media.”
Such patriarchal attitudes lead to sexism and gender bias, but they also continue to make females not only the victims but also the real guilty parties.
“Criminals are not born… they are made. Let us not have anything to do with that process,” Muhammed Fazl writes. It is truly a pity that with less than 2,000 words he has managed to show that despite his own words about the nature versus nurture aspect of criminals, he too contributes to the process and blames the victim instead of the criminal.