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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What is Fitting Justice Against Rape?

I happened to read a review of 'Teeth' in The Guardian earlier today (Let's not go into why I'm forever quoting the Guardian. At least, not in this post). The reviewer termed the movie a 'rape-revenge' theme one and while that was intriguing enough, and the article contained a few insights which took me by surprise, it was the last few lines which really hit home — hard.

"It's possible to give all these films a feminist reading. In Teeth and Thelma and Louise there is definite wish-fulfilment for female audiences in seeing brutality addressed in direct and often inventive ways. But in every case, there is a bleakness that ultimately undermines any other message. Cumulatively, they induce a sense of fear - the sense that the footsteps behind you are growing louder - and a recognition that, while harassment proliferates, justice does not. This may be realistic, but there's an inadvertent misogynist message, one that encourages women to feel unsafe, to stay at home."

How ironic is that? They talk about justice apropos rape and they still do not manage to sound supportive of victims. I'm rather taken aback that anything that speaks up against rape could ever be classified as 'feminist' but I'll let that slide for now. What has me bothered more is the obvious effect that these movies are having, the kind of message they are sending out. I'm not entirely sure if anything associated with rape could end on a positive note — 'positive note' is a rather cloudy concept here — but is there actually an alternative to the further helplessness and hopelessness that these movies and reports etc induce, with their content?

I once read a book titled Retribution. It detailed the story of a woman who is stalked and brutaly raped hours before her bar exam, loses faith in everything, moves to a new state and tries to rebuild her life, only, she is no longer the bold and brave young woman she was. Her boyfriend has left her, having tacitly blamed her for what happened and she believes him too. Years later, she has to face her rapist in connection to a different case and despite her extraordinary change in appearance he recognises her and, ignoring the legal complications this brings about, the rest f the sotry centres around what she chooses to do. Fight the case and knowing he is innocent of the charges he's been convicted of at present, let it go, or exact retribution by having him convicted?

The book did not impress me. While the scenes it described were horrifying enough, what threw me was the ending (no don't bother, it's not worth it). Retribution? Is that all the end there is to having been raped? Is that all the justice you get? And even then, your actions of vengeance (see? there doesn't even exist a WORD for this!) are not considered completely condonable. The enormity of this crime is ignored even more enormously. Show me ONE country/state/region where the laws are stringent against rape. What about it seems so trifling?

Women are the largest minority in the world. Minorities are forever being discriminated against. But history has proven that justice is served in the end. Except in this one case. Is there ever going to be an end to this? How will it end?

When will it stop? When will we see the day when shame is not the first reaction to rape? When will the 'entertainment media' wake up and quit showing rape scenes with the excuse of "It happens in real life, we're only trying to be real". What are you trying to prove by it anyway? There's no benefit to be had from it... none whatsoever. How about spending the same resources in helping to raise some constructive awareness instead, trying to sway the tide of change and attitude, not promoting more bleakness? And no, "She was asking for it dressed like that" and "Maybe she enjoys it" are not an answer. This attitude towards rape is a widely social and yet deeply personal responsibility. How about doing your bit? If it's profits you're worrying about, please the largest minority and your profits will be rolling in... we don't hold sway over the majority for nothing.


  1. you know i totally agree with you...

    it's still going to be a while before anything really changes..

    the book sounds interesting - I'll let u know what I think of it when I am done...

  2. I suppose the crux of this issue lies in considering rape as a crime, as you pointed out, and not a female crises and the analogy of this crime wouldn't make things change easy. Movies like ‘teeth’ don’t really care much other than being another ‘that weirdo fun movie’ all around, similarly like old hindi movies where rape scenes were only trick they found to display the hidden interesting part of it. Bloody cheaps!!

    But coming to the point of law being more strict against such, the question is more of possibility of reversing the state of victim.
    Although it is not the severity of punishment but positive building of social thought process which will ultimately prove a valuable change, what do you think is the most appropriate punishment?

  3. I totally agree especially with the entertainment media doing its part by not showing a rape scene.It can be conveyed by other means than showing how brutally she was raped.I still remember that scene (damn i can never remember a movie name),a movie where some terrorists in Kashmir are raping a girl infront of her family.It looked more like cruel porn where some sickos would definitely get turned on and might try it out in real as well.If we can think about banning smoking scenes then rape sure should.I wonder who would go to court and with what justification against that if such a rule applies.

  4. rape is a horrific crime and I am surprised that they dealt w/ it so offhandedly. Ending with a positive note?? seriously?

  5. What is more pathetic is when I read reports of the rapist marrying his victim in jail,thereby atoning for his sin and also making everything "ok".

  6. Silvara: To be honest, the book isn't worth a read. I'd give it a miss.
    What astounds me is, the status of women has improved majorly over the years, it still has a long way to go... and yet, somehow this one issue hasn't ever been addressed satisfactorily. What gives?

    Zephyr: Society's attitude is definitely under question here, but id there really any fitting punishment? Rape is infinitely worse than murder as a crime... it's unimaginably horrible, is that the reason that there might be no 'satisfying' form of punishing perpetrators?

    Sree:Yeah i sgree, they film scenes more for the titillation factor than for any actual awareness. And good point, it's really surprising that rape scenes have not been banned. They're more harmful to society than a stupid cigarette!!

    La Vida Loca: Like I said, 'positive note' is a very debatable thing here. Do you think there is any suitable punishment to be meted out at all??

    I love lucy: Welcome here :) I never did get that part about a rapist marrying his victim, how the hell does it make things okay? How is it punishment at all??!! If anything it's punishment meted out to the victim!! Where were the legal brains when punishment for rape was being discussed?

  7. castration..wouldn't that be fitting... no man in his right mind would think of raping a woman again..

  8. That's more or less the theme of 'Teeth'. And castration? More like no man would be able to commit a rape every again, forget think about :) Thanks for dropping by!

  9. castration. cant think of a more fitting punishment. let them live on and know what they can never do again - violently or for pleasure.