What can you do with a man's need…. She wanted it…. Her dress was provocative - So goes some of the responses from people who readily dismiss that "rape" as such is frightening and destructive.
There is more to it than just the devastation of the victim as a human being. When the society downplays its role and some voices begin to sound as if the rapist need to be tolerated, if not condoned, and to this end, they keep talking nonsense. Rape culture, in the end, becomes accepted though such nonsensical barrage of words.
Rape is thus trivialised and normalised. As the horrific event, as well as the victim, is belittled, recognition of rape culture remains elusive and resistance against it loses its intensity.
Yet, questions arise – what is rape culture and how does it operate?
Rape culture is a social practice that allows sexual harassment, violence against women, and rape as if there are normal incidents. It justifies rape by blaming the victim instead of the perpetrator. The blaming starts from questioning the character of the girl – was she wearing anything revealing? What was she doing at the spot where the rape happened, or she should have known better, etc.
Rape culture is ubiquitously prevalent. Rape culture operates in society in several ways: patriarchy, hegemonic masculinity, passive behaviour of women, and representation of rape in the media, language politics, and rape myths. Regardless of geopolitical situation wherever around the world men are dominating the women are the places rape culture happens as aggression towards women.
Bangladeshi society is predominantly patriarchal. Being dominant, tough, aggressive and loud is what being men is about. "Women are supposed to live inside the house. Women of my family do not go out for work. We (male members) do not allow them. If women are going out for work, an incident like rape would happen to them. Not venturing out is for their safety," says Abdul Wahab, a businessman in Dhaka's Dhanmondi area.
As horrifying as it sounds, this is the predominant sentiment, even today with men taking charge of women and without rectifying what is wrong in their attitude towards women. When society regularly accepts such dominating behaviour as normal, rape culture nonetheless is a common pattern of behaviour that may become a subject about which one either speak in drivel or simply remain silent about.
A report of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad says 731 rape incidents took place in the first half of 2019 in Bangladesh. About 942 women were raped in 2018.
Before we get one's head around such a rising rate of violence against women, one must realise that these statistics are based on the reported rapes only. There are many that go unreported.
Rape culture continues when we allow hegemonic masculinity (actively or passively). Violence is a tool to use as a means of 'teaching' women a lesson against her 'inappropriate behaviour'. Raising voice against toxic masculinity and thus violence would value the patriarchy less.
The myth that the victim is responsible for her victimisation portrays the woman as a seductress. What can be odder than this reality of victim-blaming? Speaking out against the root cause and campaigning by countering the fact that men and boys must not require showing their power just for the sake of boosting their ego.
Zero tolerance has to be practised against rapists from root to policy level. All and all broadening understanding about rape culture would be the first step towards recognizing thus abolishing the rape culture from the core of its root.