Normalisation of rape culture – 09 Jun 2022

We normalise rape culture as a community; society tolerates, excuses, laughs at or does not question it enough

Rape culture is prevalent — ingrained in our thoughts, words and actions. It is consistently entrenched in patriarchal values, power and control, regardless of the circumstance. It results from the continuing gender disparities and attitudes toward gender and sexuality that allow for the normalisation and justification of sexual assault.

Two incidents made headlines in Pakistan regarding rape in print or social media in the past days. The one in which a 25-year-old woman was allegedly gang-raped on a train travelling from Karachi to Multan, and alarmingly, the perpetrators were private-sector train employees. The second incident included two journalists who, in a video circulating on social media, humiliated and mocked another journalist by claiming that he was a ‘victim of rape’. Both of these incidents are frightening in that the identities of train staffers would not be an issue for the security administration, so how could they not be afraid of being caught one day? The law enforcement and criminal justice system deserve credit for eliminating the intruders’ apprehension. On the other hand, journalists publicly mortify based on rape, considering it a joke and ‘consciously objectifying’ their other colleague. Is it normal for society? The answer would be difficult to endorse!

One thing is for sure: we are normalising rape culture as a community. Society tolerates, excuses, laughs at or does not question it enough. In her book Transforming a Rape Culture, Emilie Buchwald explains how society accepts and promotes rape culture when sexualised violence is normalised. This description encompasses the origins and implications of rape culture; it is ingrained in society, and victims of sexual abuse suffer the consequences.

Moreover, it harms society. Both men and women assume that sexual violence is an unavoidable part of life in a rape culture. Much of what we accept as unavoidable, on the other hand, is the manifestation of beliefs and attitudes. The ‘acceptance’ norm is problematic since rape culture unintentionally constructs from this endorsement. We know that most women, girls, boys, and men do not report rapes — whether because of shame, victim-blaming, or the threat of being slain for ‘honour’ or because they have lost faith in the legal system. Around the world, national legal systems have mostly failed survivors of sexual abuse.

Rape culture did not appear overnight. Even though rape culture has its origins in long-standing patriarchal power systems, today’s rape culture affects men as well, for example, by neglecting the fact that both men and women can be victims of rape and sexual assault. As a result, male victims are left without legal protection or social assistance. Another critical factor in our society is that we ‘usually’ do not believe men can be raped because men are also known as ‘shielded entities’ in our society compared to women. However, the foundation of rape culture in society is patriarchal ideology. Patriarchy is associated with ‘power’ that they (rapists) obtain from within society. It is no longer exclusive to men as it formerly was.

Is it possible to tolerate the normalisation of rape culture in our society? Pakistani society is at its lowest point, with polarisation based on religion, politics, ethnicity and other factors at an all-time high. Because unconscious prejudices and hidden assumptions contribute to rape culture’s power, simply bringing it to light is a step toward changing it. The purpose of talking about it is much more than merely reducing the frequency with which sexual assault occurs or the impunity that allows it to grow. A certain degree of sensitivity is required. Sexual violence and abusers are nearly never prosecuted in the criminal justice system.

Policy shapes our perceptions of the world, determining what is acceptable and unacceptable and what constitutes a ‘problem’ that must be addressed. Policy gaps reveal what we believe we are all responsible for and what institutions should do for us. When it comes to gender-based violence, the policy can influence how it is perceived, dealt with, and problematised as a problem that must be addressed. Although the public policy will not instantly eliminate the tendency to downplay, diminish, or normalise rape, the correct measures can help us go on the right track toward altering our culture.

Read more