by Andrea Wilkum.
“Making someone feel obligated, pressured or forced into doing something of a sexual nature that they don't want to is sexual coercion. This includes persistent attempts at sexual contact when the person has already refused you. Nobody owes you sex, ever; and no means no, always.”*
A 2016-17 economic survey published by India’s Maharashtra government revealed that violent crimes against women increased by 21.9% over a two year period from 2014-16. Rapes over that period rose from 3,438 to 4,209 in 2016. (The Indian Express). As in most statistics of this nature, they are on the low end as most rapes are never reported.
According to statistics which were released in the United States in January 2017, the FBI’s Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime reported an overall increase of crime from 2015-2016 with the number of rapes rising 3.5% in that period. In the most recent Gallup poll, 1 in 3 women in the United States worry about being sexually assaulted. This is a shockingly high figure when wee think about it. Of course, men rarely, if ever do think about it.
There has been some recent focus on the rape crimes in India, and the country has faced some sharp criticism as a backward and twisted country in regards to their failure to stand up for women’s rights and not hold their law enforcement accountable for these actions.
Much of the blame for this increase in sexual violence lies in the fact that many Indians are living in a society which offers poverty, poor living conditions, low wages, and a failing legal system. There are citizens living in slums which do not offer adequate sewers or running water, but the failure to deal with the issues of rape and an almost nonexistent police force within poor areas to fight crime makes matters worse.
Along with the statistics, many rape victims in India never report them to the authorities for fear of the negative social stigma that this act carries in regards to dishonor amongst families. In 2015, it was reported that Indian police registered under 40,000 rape cases whereas the United States reports about 63,000 annually. It is important to point out that India has nearly four times as many people as the United States. To complicate matters, when sex crimes are reported in either country, they hardly ever make it to trial and those that do often result in a meager sentence if the perpetrator is found guilty. A court case is often a grueling ordeal for the victim as women’s personal and sexual lives are dragged through the mud and she is portrayed as a person of low morals.
Now, a new epidemic of sex crime has arisen in India which is the selling of gang rape videos for less than $1.00. A health worker walking home from a district within the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was raped by four men. Unfortunately, this video of her rape was circulated online which led to her suicide.
There have been multiple stories published which involve similar scenarios. These are the known stories that have been shared publicly, and stand as a perfect example as to why most of these cases do go unreported. Victims are often blackmailed. The rapes are often shot on mobile phone and are easily spread throughout a community.
What is even more disturbing is that the Times of India has reported that hundreds of these rape videos are being sold “under the counter”, “right under the nose of the police and the administration” (Times of India August 4, 2016). The dealers involved in these crimes reportedly download the videos from social networks sites such as Twitter or Facebook, which they then proceed to sell. Since these crimes are all online, it does not take very long before the videos go viral.
The report recalls the disturbing events happening right now in the United States. The commander of the US Marines Corps is being held accountable for similar sexual crimes occurring among the ranks. Male Marines are uploading videos or images of female Marines without the victim’s consent to a Facebook page called, “Marines United”, which has about 30,000 members—rampant with misogynistic commentary and victim-blaming. While the US Senate is investigating the matter, it will be difficult to shut down these types of websites. When one web page is down, a new page will simply spring up with the same content. A member of the “Marines United”, Marshall Chiles justifies the page and its members by stating that sexual assault will continue to happen if women are continued to be allowed in to the military. Simply put, if a woman is added or integrated in to a group of males, this sort of thing “just happens” and will continue to happen because women are a supposed distraction. Chiles states further that the group was created to promote camaraderie and was designed as a form of social validation.
This logic is the same logic that is used against rape victims, sexual assault victims, (i.e. “She was raped because she was too drunk to notice her surroundings”, or “She was asking for it with that short skirt”.) etc.
The scale of sexual violence is large, however, should we really be blaming the military or pointing the finger at one single country for being the sole misogynists of the world? While I do not condone the scandal in any way whatsoever nor sex crimes, we need to take a step back and look at how this misogynist ideology is still allowed to thrive within the twenty-first century. Even though these incidents are happening constantly, feminism is still questioned or regarded as a negative idea. Also, often dismissed or viewed as a threat by those people who feel that they are being attacked simply because many of them are now being forced to question a centuries old way of backwards thinking. The reason situations such as these mentioned in the article can occur is because of a deeply entrenched history of sexism discrimination and violence, which apparently still runs rampant within some “civilized societies.”
With the election of Donald Trump, a serial predator who boasts about being able to do anything he can to women including kissing them without their permission and grabbing their genitals, it is no wonder these attitudes prevail in the US. After all, if the president of the United States can do what he wants with a woman why can’t any man?
It has been mentioned on this blog that more than half the world’s industrial workers are women. We have seen strikes of women factory workers throughout Asia. The recent women’s march here in the US was a historic event spurred on by Trumps assault on women’s rights at home. Two to four million marched in support of women’s rights.
A lot must be done to change attitudes formed over centuries of treating women as objects and women as hosts for future generations (of males hopefully).
We have a long way to go but women will not be driven back to the dark ages by Donald Trump or religious zealots. We have come too far for that.