“The Rape Culture” refers to a sub ideology that describes the cultural ingraining, the disparagement and the trivialization of rape. According to prominent scholars of feminist political thought, rape culture has grown to be a product of society groomed by patriarchy which allows and excuses rape. According to a foremost American political scientist and sociocultural critic, Michael John Parenti, rape culture manifests through the acceptance of rape as an everyday occurrence. This is also manifested through victim blaming, the reluctance of authorities to go against patriarchal cultural norms as well as fears of stigmatization suffered by rape victims and their families. Rape is a form of sexual assault that involves intercourse or any other form of penetration against a person without that person’s consent. In simple terms, rape is sex without consent and this is carried out with violence, coercion or quite frankly the misuse of authority and blackmail.
This is existentially one of the biggest problems facing our society in general, the fact that sexual violence towards women is heavily excused for and trivialized without even looking at its negative effects not only to women but to men as well.
The rape culture worldwide is fluid, flexible as they come and now socially legitimated. The main cause of rape culture is the sense and belief in the domination and objectification of women. In a more scathing remark, the rape culture is a product of society’s inherent and masked misogyny. The fact that society has come to a sense of entitlement towards a woman’s body, the fact that society doesn’t accept the various negative ills rape brings with it, and the fact that the various stalwarts of society itself passionately trivialize rape, try to reduce and normalize it essentially shows how dangerous this sub culture is injurious to our existence as humans.
If you believe in gender equality, surely you cannot condone the inherent belief in the domination and objectification of women. Rape as research has shown over the last four to five decades, is a very powerful tool of domination and domination of women societally is inhuman or aptly put, anti-human. Thus, a subculture that consciously and subconsciously upholds rape must as a matter of urgency be dismantled.
Countries that the rape culture is entrenched in are; United States of America, Canada, Australia Pakistan, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, and Nigeria amongst others. These nations are enlisted because of the very high rates of rape, the very low percentage of rape convictions and the prevalence of the various manifestations of the rape culture such as victim stigmatization, rape apologism, victim blaming and institutional apathy towards rape.
According to records from the United States Bureau of Justice statistics, just between 15.8 to 35 percent of rapes are ever reported to the police in the United States. Scarier is the fact that because of the high prevalence of stigmatization towards rape victims, these rape victims are quite often reluctant to go to necessary crime fighting bodies and report cases of rape to them, hence internalizing the hurt & damage rape has done to them.
This is a very dangerous trend, to say the least. The United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime reports that rapes against women are very rarely reported to the police despite the fact that most victims of rape are women; one must also note that the number of female rape victims is grossly under reported. In South Africa, once known as the “rape capital of the world,” the Integrated Regional Information Networks, a news agency focusing on humanitarian stories from under reported regions, estimates over 500,000 rapes committed annually. South African welfare groups also strongly believe that the unreported cases of rape may mean that rapes committed in South Africa yearly are actually at least 3 times higher than reported. This is absolutely alarming, and the fact that this is so because of the societal pressures meted to rape victims not to report such cases, South Africa as a country may find it difficult to fight this sociocultural cancer effectively. In terms of conviction, statistics from the United Kingdom shows a drastic reduction in conviction rates while rape cases rise almost simultaneously. The rate of conviction as of 1970 was put at 33 percent by 1985 the rate of conviction on rape cases reduced to 24 percent, the number has since reduced drastically to just 5 percent in 2010 with rape cases occurring rates almost triple the rate it was in 1985 in the United Kingdom.
In 2003, Amnesty International reported that Ireland had the lowest conviction rate for rape amongst 21 European states. It may also interest you to know that police officers are some of the biggest perpetrators of rape and other sexual abuse in Nigeria according to Amnesty International. More frightening statistics from Nigeria also show that 92 percent of those accused of rape escape jail term or even fines every year even when strong pieces of evidence suffice. The fact that Nigeria, as with 100 other countries in the world does not regard ‘Intimate Partner Rape’ also known as Marital Rape as a crime even frightens me more as it should to any human being with a conscience. In India, now infamously touted as the world’s rape capital. Rape is the fourth most common crime against women. The majority of the rape cases in India mostly go unreported, and this is a very dangerous trend, a trend proved possible due to the power rape culture in India poses as with almost all the countries in the world.
This has got to stop, and like every other form of oppression, fighting rape and dismantling the rape culture across the world must come with absolute severity, radicalism and abrupt demand for change. As a staunch pacifist, I won’t, however, condone violence as a means to dismantle all the forms of rape culture, as rape in itself is violent and violence no matter how effective almost always comes with its extra baggage. However, one most clearly note that dismantling the rape culture will never come easy; the opposition to progressive change is as strong as they come and it will never be an easy journey. Feminists, gender activists, scholars and anti-rape advocates must, however, come to an understanding of the urgency of this problem we as human beings are facing and look for proactive, stronger, more effective and smarter means to ensure an end to this very toxic sub-culture/sub-ideology called the “rape culture.”
Bassil Abia is a member of the National Youth Service Corps serving in Abuja and can be reached on Twitter: @basilabia