The gang-rape of a female student in a moving bus in Delhi last year brought the subject of rape to the public notice yet again.
Each time such an incident occurs, in any country in the world, it causes outrage in the community.
However being a victim of rape also carries a social stigma almost as widely: the girl asked for it by wearing the wrong clothes, she has loose morals, she didn’t say no, or she was in the wrong place.
Many rape victims are treated badly by their families: pregnancy causes double punishment, with the perceived “sins” of the mother visited on the child if it survives. Rape is not treated the same as other crimes; judgement of the victim, even to death, can occur long before any judgement is passed on the culprit, if at all.
Rape is not an issue that can be fixed by harsher penalties, a better justice system, or a change in policing methods.
It requires a change in thinking, by those who automatically see themselves as the dominant sex - men. Society finds compassion for the rape victim, but then society fails to support her. Why? Basic aspects of our society - religion and the workplace - constantly re-enforce male dominance. Religions do not allow men and women to perform equal roles; even Australia continues to fail to employ or pay on an equal basis; unmarried mothers suffer from discrimination in the workplace and community. It is not just about physical strength: women are often perceived as less capable in an occupation that they are well able to perform.
Recently in Aceh, Indonesia, a law was announced forbidding women to ride astride on motorbikes. The reason given was loose morals in society - as with rape, women are judged, by men, as the cause of the problem and become the victims while doing nothing wrong.
Prostitution is reputed to be the oldest job in the world, relegating the job of motherhood to merely what women exist for. But prostitution is also traditionally a job that those who practice it, take up due to force of circumstance. Most don’t choose to sell their bodies, they just have no other means of survival. At least they are paid, unlike rape victims. But like rape, prostitution is a result of men’s poor morals, not women’s.
Because men are not required to treat women as equals in so many aspects of our society, too many of them don’t. Until their perception that women are inferior is changed, there can be no fix.
Jo McRae is a qualified Library Technician, currently volunteer Librarian and editor for environmental groups. After her daughter’s death age 26 in 2012 she went to Indonesia to assist LePMIL, Linda’s NGO, to finish her environmental movie project in Sulawesi. This has led Jo to studying Indonesian at University. With fluent Bahasa Indonesia (!!!) Jo will return to Sulawesi to continue Linda’s work. For more information see Kendari Dreaming blog. To donate to the Linda McRae Dreaming Fund see Heaven Address http://www.heavenaddress.com.