Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is A Bikini Responsible For The Rape Of A 9 Year Old Girl?

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Trigger Warning.

Goa, India is a popular destination for tourists due in part to magnificent beaches.  Recently, Goa has received negative attend for a slew of rapes culminating in the alleged rape of a nine year old girl.

Instead of seeing this for the horror that it is, Pamela Mascarhenas, Goa's deputy director of tourism, is quoted by New Delhi's Daily Mail as saying, "You can't blame the locals"; rather, the assaults are the fault of foreign women who don't show adequate "modesty," which "is bound to titillate the senses." Other officials join in by excusing the attacks as caused by "culture shock."

What is this but blatant victim blaming?  Not only does she fail to show solidarity with these victims, she uses their status as foreign women to further stigmatizes them.  While it is true that these women may have been ignorant of the cultural norms, their behaviour did not lead to these alleged rapes.

Rape is an act of power.  India, much like the rest of the world is a highly patriarchal society and therefore  the desire to oppress and control women is very much a part of their discourse.  Victim blaming is commonly how rape is dealt with and this is why rape continues to be a part of worldwide culture.

You will note that she took particular care to mention what the victims were wearing.  This line of questioning is seen repeatedly in the West.  It manifests itself in questions regarding attire, blood alcohol content, and even why a victim was at a certain location.  All these question exist for the sole purpose of making the rape victim responsible for their own assault.

A nine year old should not have to worry about her appearance and in fact no grown woman should either.   A heterosexual man may find himself to be sexually stimulated by viewing a woman in clothing that is unfamiliar to him, however; that is not the genesis of his desire to rape.  If we were to use Mascarhenas explanation that would mean that men were not capable of controlling themselves.  This line of defence not only makes the victim responsible but it is reductive to men because it reduces them to mindless animals.

The way to end the high incidents of rape is not through victim blaming because no matter what a woman is wearing, if she is alone with a rapist, the end result will be rape.  Rape can only actively be challenged by dismantling patriarchy.  Men must be made to see women as their equals and in so doing understand that they do no have the right to access female bodies at will.

In much of the commentary on this story, I have seen the argument used that those people don’t understand how to treat women.  This ignores the fact that rape is a daily occurrence in Western countries and that race has no bearing on this issue.  There is not a country that is rape free because patriarchy is a global and systemic force.  Pointing our finger and declaring those people as savage only allows rape/misogyny to be used as a defence of racism.