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25 years of Yasmin tragedy: Has rape been reduced?

The society considered women as only reproductive system and societal norms associated with expressions of masculinity, such as dominance and aggression, encourage men to sexually exploit women
Monira Nazmi Jahan
25 years of Yasmin tragedy: Has rape been reduced?

August 24 was Yasmin Tragedy Day. On August 24, 1995, Yasmin was raped and killed by some policemen. Five people including Kader Samu and Siraj were killed in police firing. Many were shot and injured. Later, three policemen involved in the movement were sentenced to death on August 31, 1996. The verdict came into effect in September 2004. Since then, the day has been observed as the day of prevention of violence against women. Although the day is observed as the day of prevention of violence against women, even after 25 years of the incident, the question still remains whether the violence against women and children has decreased or increased? If we think deeply on this issue, then we have to be shattered because incidents of rape have not decreased rather increased horribly. Not only this, it has spread to every level of society. Rape has become a terrible social disorder in today's society. That disorder is destroying our society every day. And the rapists through whom the terrible incident is spreading among the society are becoming Frankenstein monster. Women of any age in society are not safe from these Frankenstein monsters. 

The word "rape" literally means forcible seizure and the simplest definition of rape is having sexual intercourse with a woman/child without her consent.

Therefore, rape can be said to be forceful ravishment of a woman or child without her consent.

As stated by Cesare Beccaria, the father of modern criminology and Jeremy Bentham, people commit crimes after weighting the pain and pleasure. The punishment of rape is life imprisonment, but still the ratio of crime is increasing drastically because punishments are not ensured promptly.

The question that first comes in our mind is what are the societal factors that have driven a person for committing rape? To give an answer to this question an article of Larry Baron and Murray A. Straus can be referred. According to them, there are four variables of rape which constitute micro-sociological theories of rape, those are (1) gender inequality; (2) circulation of pornography; (3) culturally legitimate violence; and (4) social disorganization. In gender inequality, rape functions as a mechanism of social control in patriarchal societies. Feminists argue that rape and the fear of rape enable men to assert their power over women and maintain the existing system of gender stratification. The society considered women as only reproductive system and societal norms associated with expressions of masculinity, such as dominance and aggression, encourage men to sexually exploit women.

Under the theory of pornography some feminists theorize that pornography causes men to rape women. As sexism and male dominance are depicted and celebrated in pornography, hence, such images of women as objects of sexual exploitation tend to promote and legitimate male sexual violence. Moreover, pornography sexually objectifies women, which entails the fragmentation of a woman's body and eroticization of her body parts. Also, pornography dehumanizes and degrades women, glamorizes violence, and give legitimacy to sexism. The sad part is pornography circulated a message that, women enjoy being coerced, brutalized, and raped. According to social disorganization and cultural support for violence-migration, marital disruption, divorce and socially accepted violence are causes of rape.

According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, psychological depravity in a person due to his physical defects and incapacities also play a vital role on criminality. Thus persons who faces disgust and ridicule because of their physical deformities are tend to commit more crimes frequently. Likewise, persons with ugly look who suffer from inferiority complex indulge in sexual offences due to hatred and indifference. Consequently, they generate revengeful attitudes towards women to achieve what they want which they could not otherwise get through legitimate means.

Besides physical defects, unsuccessful marital life or loss of partner causes frustration, anger and emotional disturbance that eventually culminate into delinquency. Moreover, Lindsmith observed that, alcohol and drug addictions are also causes of criminality. Drug addiction raises the urge of sexual gratification. Therefore, several rapists commit rapes due to alcoholism and addiction.

In 1979, Nicholas Groth published "Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender", where he identified rape as an aggressive act, which constitutes "a discharge of anger; it becomes evident that the rape is the way the offender expresses and discharges a mood state of intense anger, frustration, resentment, and rage". Growth first presented the idea that rape has three main components: power, anger and sexuality, resulting in four rapist types.

In 'anger rape' sexuality becomes a hostile act. Here the rapist uses rape to degrade or humiliate women, expresses much profanity, attacks often prompted by some marital conflict, occupational or financial problem. In 'power rape', sexuality is an expression of conquest, established masculine identity, and also likely kidnap the victim for repeated assaults over an extended period of time. In 'sadistic rape', there is a fusion between violence and sex wherein anger and power become eroticized. The sadistic rapist often uses torture or bondage to experience sexual arousal over the victim's suffering, frequently targets prostitutes or women who symbolize something he wants to destroy or punish. The 'opportunistic rapists' often rape and meet nonsexual needs. Essentially, they are adventure-seeking, impulsive, and recreational offenders.

Another classic characterization of rapists is the contrast between unselfish and selfish rapists. The unselfish rapist often exhibit verbal, sexual, or physical behaviour all in a way that indicates concern for the victim. They usually do so to convince the victim to cooperate. On the other hand, the selfish rapist does not desire the victim to become involved at all. This type of rapist is derogatory toward the victim. They use the victim's body the same way as one uses a prop, a doll or a mannequin. Conversation between the rapist and the offender throughout the event will be consistently threatening and sexual in nature.

It is undeniable that there are laws to punish criminals; But law alone cannot wipe out this inhuman crime. The verdict of the Yasmin tragedy was executed. But even then this terrible disease could not be wiped out from society. If we want to wipe out it, we must go to the root of crime in order to remove this disease from society.  Remember, the rapist is a criminal; not the rape victim. Therefore, besides ensuring severe punishment to the rapist, society should extend the hand of maximum cooperation for the return of the rape victim to normal life and people from every sector of society should come forward equally to develop a positive attitude towards women.

The writer is Senior Lecturer, Department of Law, East West University, Bangladesh

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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