In the court of law, a victim’s “character” or prior sexual experience is not a matter of concern, but these notions are still tools against the victims of rape.
Her consent becomes immaterial. In fact, determining whether her consent was acquired by force, threat, or fraud plays no role.
According to Ain O Salish Kendra, a total of 665 incidents of rape were documented between January and September last year in Bangladesh. Among these, 77 were attempts to rape, 427 were rapes, 151 were gang rapes, and in 10 cases, the type of rape is not mentioned.
Some 41% of alleged rape victims have been in the age group of 13-18 years, followed by 33% for the age group of 7-12 years, and 14% of the cases was for victims below the age of 6 years.
Analysing the data suggests that in our country, pre-pubescent females are more often the victims of rape than older women, with approximately 47% of victims being pre-pubescent females.
Why are males usually the rapists and underage females the victims?
According to a study titled “Why do some men use violence against women and how can we prevent it?” 37% of urban and 22% of rural men have experienced some form of sexual abuse during their childhood.
The study also suggested that out of 1,130 rural men, 50 men were raped by other men. And of 1,246 urban men, 63 were raped by other men. This introduces us to a hidden aspect of our society, which ultimately leaves an abominable society for the future generations.
Why do men rape?
In a study on men’s attitudes and practices regarding gender and violence against women, some factors were brought into light that explain why some men rape.
According to the study, an overwhelming majority of the 77% of urban men and 81% of rural men cited sexual entitlement as a motivation for rape.
Another alarming fact is that 57% of urban men and 67% of rural men reported “fun” as a motivating factor for rape. About 29% of urban and 35% of rural men used sexual violence for punishing the woman or for taking out anger.
In order to understand these motivational factors, men were asked whether they need sex more than women. Remarkably, 69% urban men and 78% rural men answered “yes.”
This indicates that our men are growing up believing in these destructive notions about sex, and against women. This raises questions not only about upbringing, but also about our educational system.
The study suggested that 61.2% of urban men who raped did not feel guilty. This might be because 95.1% of the urban men and 88.1% of rural men didn’t face any legal consequences
In a study conducted by the UN, men in rural and urban Bangladesh were asked if they had forced a woman to have sex at any point in their lives. 14.1% rural and 9.5% urban men responded with “yes.”
Growing up believing in sexual entitlement is the main reason for sexual violence against females, as well as against themselves in their early ages. Despite their actions, 97% of rural men and 95% of urban men believe men and women should be treated equally.
Yet, interestingly, 62% of rural men and 60% of urban men also believe that there are times when a woman should be beaten or punished.
Some 94% of rural men and 88% of urban men believe a woman should obey her husband. Maybe that’s the reason why 10% of the rural men and 11.2% of urban men perpetrated rape when they were under 15 years of age.
Despite 94% of rural men and 93% of urban men having knowledge about the law, there are men who are perpetrate rape more than once. According to the study, around 47.4% and 40.6% of rural and urban men respectively perpetrated rape more than once.
The study also suggested that 61.2% of urban men who raped did not feel guilty or worried afterwards. This might be because 95.1% of the urban men and 88.1% of rural men didn’t face any legal consequences, which may have allowed them to repeat their offence often.
Another reason for this could be due to our social stigma. In our country, most rape cases go unreported. According to the recent ASK report, out of 665 rape incidents, 411 rape cases were reported -- which is just 62%.
It is relevant to mention that the notorious “two-finger test” is still employed in rape investigations. This British colonial-era test requires a doctor to insert two fingers in the victim’s genitalia to determine whether the woman is “habituated to sex.” This prevents the victim from reporting the case.
Prior to that, a rape case brings shame, not for the rapist, but for the victim, because the victim is always blamed for putting herself in that situation.
This begs the question: Can a six-year-old child “put herself” in such a horrendous situation? Can you blame her attire and character for the incident?
Sadiya S Silvee is Research Assistant at Bangladesh Institute of Law and International affairs (BILIA) and also associated with Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) as a Legal Researcher.