Politicians all over the world are the same: they suffer from the foot-in-mouth syndrome.
bq. A top Japanese cabinet member who is also in charge of gender equality issues came under fire on Thursday for allegedly saying that many women who are raped seemed to be "asking for it" by the way they dress. Yasuo Fukuda, the top government spokesman, was quoted by a magazine as saying many women invited rape by dressing in a provocative manner, because men are "black panthers." - Reuters
At first glance, this is an example of what NOT to say when talking about the sexual of assault of women by men. For all the silly things our local politicians say sometimes, none, thankfully, have publicly suggested anything along these lines throughout the horror-show that is the rape and murder of Canny Ong.
Deeper analysis seeks the answers to a few questions:
# Why do men rape women?
# Does the social environment contribute in any way towards the occurence of this crime?
# Do the actions/provocations/dressing of a women have any influence on her personal safety?
A suggested answer to the first question is that rape is not necessarily a crime of passion, but a crime of control and an exhibition of power. The rapist believes that his actions demonstrate power and control over the victim. The satisfaction for most rapists is not the sexual gratification of the act, but the "high of power" that ensues.
Does the way a society is engineered contribute in any way to the occurence of rape? I believe that the answer to this question must be "Yes". A society that places pressure on women to avoid and prevent rape, a society that points the finger of blame towards the victim and creates excuses for the criminal - this is a society that creates a "barrier of shame" - this barrier does two things:
# It provides implicit protection for the rapists by deflecting responsibility for the crime away from him to the victim.
# It discourages women to come forward and report crimes against them - how its the victim that's put on trial in the court of law is a well known fact. Defense lawyers scan and probe every detail of the victim: what was she wearing, is she a virgin, her sexual history, whether she was acting in a provocative manner? In an adversarial system of law, they have to do this - guilt is all about determining blame. If the defense can deflect some of it towards the women, much the better for the defendant.
Lastly, the third question: a lot has been said about whether any blame should be on the shoulders of the victim. For all the exhortations to the contrary, scenarios swim around in my mind where i can imagine some blame on her shoulders. One such scenario is as follows:
Women, half-drunk, goes up to a guy in a bar, also half-drunk. They hit it off quite well. He suggests a quiet drink at his place. She agrees. Throughout the drive home, she drops all sorts of sexual innuendos. Back at his place, he makes sexual advances. She realizes that this is not what she wants. She tries to back out, but is trapped by the larger, stronger man. He rapes her, all the time saying, "You asked for this all the way home - and now i'm giving it to you."
Or this scenario:
Everything same as the above. But the difference is that the sex is consentual. But the next morning, she wakes up, dazed but more coherent as the alcohol has been flushed from her system. She realizes what happened, is disgusted, feels dirty and used, violated - she goes to the nearest police station and reports a rape.
In the first scenario - its a rape, no question about that. In the second, i reckon the lines of guilt are blurred significantly; a woman can't sleep with a man consentually, then claimed to have been raped, can she? Read more about this at "False Rape Allegations" and Rape: The Feminist Silver Bullet.
But in both scenarios, can you imagine how hard it will be to convict the man in a court of law? Criminal offenses need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. When the case comes down to, all other things being equal, to "i said, she said", her word against mine, that may be reasonable doubt enough to secure an acquital.
The point is: The Canny Ong case notwithstanding, determining guilt and blame when rape occurs is not an easy thing at all. At end of the day, some semblance of preventive measures by women will save everyone a lot of grief (though there will be those who will argue that the onus should be on men not to rape, rather than for women to avoid/prevent it). A non-exhaustive list of suggestions:
Stay safe, ladies.