Feature Article of Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Columnist: Sallah, Juanita
Institutional Failures Or Wickedness
The Delhi Rape Crisis
Sex is nice but can be nasty, especially when it comes against the wish of one of the participants. Technically, sex in this form is called rape. I have been following recent events in India. A dramatic rape story that is panning out to be one of the most patronized human rights stories in India, and has triggered many protests across that country. It follows the death of a 23 year old medical student who was gang raped in the capital Delhi.
It happened on a bus, people! On a bus! Predatory! Outrageous! And theatric in its most horrifying form.
According to the BBC, ‘The woman - a medical student whose identity has not been released - and her friend had been to see a film when they boarded the bus in the Munirka area of Delhi, intending to travel to Dwarka in the south-west of the city’.
Attackers began by harassing the woman for simply being out with a man at night and then proceeded to beating her male friend with an iron rod when he tried to stop them from taunting her.
Friends say the couple were in a relationship and had been planning to marry in the next few weeks. And even if the two were not going to get married, but decided to make out on the streets, should that be any part of their business? Should they not be reported to the authorities who made the laws against such behavior if there are indeed such laws?
News reports indicate the men who took part in the attack were 6. They have been charged with murder and if found guilty will face a death penalty. Sounds like Justice to me. But will it actually be Justice served if the rest of the world hasn’t learned from it? In Delhi, a woman is raped every 14 hours. Women across India have also complained they are frequently subjected to sexual intimidation and violence.
India does not stand alone in this animalistic treatment of the female sex. African countries also have their own place in rape statistics. Indeed, according to the report by the United Nations Office on Crimes and Drugs for the period 1998–2000, South Africa was ranked first for rapes per capita. In a 1998 survey conducted by the Community Information, Empowerment and Transparency (CIET) Africa in Johannesburg, one in three of the 4,000 women sampled was raped.
While women's groups in South Africa estimate that a woman is raped every 26 seconds, the South African police estimate that a woman is raped every 36 seconds. Amazing!
In a document titled, ‘Understanding men’s health and use of violence: interface of rape and HIV in South Africa,’ researchers revealed that more than 25% of a sample of 1,738 South African men from the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces admitted to raping someone when anonymously questioned.
The document further stated that, nearly three out of four men who admitted rape stated they had first forced a woman or girl into sex before the age of 20, and nearly one in ten admitted doing so before the age of 10.
Of course other studies paint a more pleasant picture about this crime rate in South Africa. Many have argued that the aforementioned study was carried out in specific neigbourhoods and must not be extrapolated to the whole nation. Be that as it may, is it not worrying why women in particular neighbourhoods of a country will be allowed to endure such heinous crimes?
The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is almost legendary. The east of that country in particular, has been described as the ‘rape capital of the world’ and the prevalence and intensity of all forms of sexual violence has been characterized as the worst in the world.
Though Ghana is quite better in terms of the statistics, similar horrendous acts have happened in recent times. In February last year, a teenage girl was gang raped in her secondary school. The girl in question did not die but she hasn’t been served justice. The gruesome act meted out to her by her colleagues is unfortunately being left unpunished.
The seventeen year old girl of the Benkum Senior High School was brutally raped in a classroom by seven of her colleagues. From what I found out from two other boys who were present during the act, the boys decided to punish her for coming back to the classroom block during ‘curfew’ or lights-out. This case became one of the most highlighted sexual violence cases in Ghana in the year 2012 but nothing has been done to the perpetrators.
The case was taken to a magistrate court, the judge never showed up, the Domestic Violence and Victims Supports Unit of the Ghana Police Service stopped pursuing the case, the government kept mute over it despite the media attention it received, the girl’s family got tired of chasing justice with the little resources they had. Later, efforts by human rights groups in the country to help out were turned down by the girl and her family because they got tired of society bashing them with indescribable words.
The stigma suffered by the victims is mind-boggling. Don’t we need a national conversation on stigmatization and rape victims? Rape breaks a woman’s spirit.
It destroys her confidence. It tears her apart. It shutters her world. It kills her. The ramifications are worst when the victim sees no justice and she lives every single day of her life in the shadows, and frightened at the sound of a male voice. In most part, rape is fuelled by inordinate sexual desire, but I dare submit that sometimes sheer cruelty against women causes men to do this.
A 50 year old rape victim from DR Congo submits, ‘the men did it with objects, it wasn’t from any physical desire. The only answer I have is that they wanted to destroy me; destroy my body and kill my spirit!’
Another one described her ordeal to a 2008 audience of UN and government officials, ‘they kicked me roughly to the ground, and they ripped off all my clothes, and between the two of them, they held my feet. One took my left foot, one took my right, and the same with my arms, and between the two of them they proceeded to rape me. Then all five of them raped me.’ The girl from Benkum Senior High School in Ghana said they forced her to drink one of the guy’s semen. She was later diagnosed with gonorrhea and the police are fully aware of these details.
In conclusion, the demand for Justice must not be ignored by the Indian government. The Voice of the protesters must be heard. India and the International community must insist the appropriate punishment be given. The cries of rape victims in DR Congo, South Africa and other parts of the continent must not be overlooked. And Ghana, learning from the experiences of others should not create the environment for such acts to flourish. The country must ensure that rapists are squarely dealt with to discourage the practice.
So, what has happened to the guys who gang raped the young lady at Benkum, are they freely walking about as if nothing happened? What message are we sending to the rest of the world? Have we for a moment thought about how the lady is coping with the act of vandalism visited on her soul by her hoodlum mates? We must not wait for a girl to die before they bring men who rape her to Justice. The Benkum Case must be re-opened. And DOVVSU must be faithful to their Job!
Author’s email: [email protected]