Rape, fundamentally, is a form of violence. All forms of violence can be traced back to power disparities and patriarchy is one of the most prominent reasons of power disparity in our society.
In a patriarchal hierarchy, women own little property and do not make financial decisions. They are often married off and the decision-making role transfers from their fathers to their husbands. To make sure that women are not trusted with financial endeavours, they are indoctrinated to adapt to the role of a passive homemaker very early in their childhood.
In fact, the most debilitating aspect of patriarchy is how disproportionately it intervenes in women's decisions, as opposed to men. For some reason, an arbitrary value system designed by patriarchal hierarchy gets to decide what a woman can do, wear or aspire to be. From an early age, they are told to not be loud, to wear socially acceptable clothing, to be more polite.
After reaching adolescence, girls are hardly allowed to play outdoors. They are told that they are supposed to be more resilient and more reserved than the boys. Here, societal norms function as a narrative device for behaviour control. If a rare breed of women choose to denounce these preconceived notions, they are often slut-shamed and vilified, even when they are victims of sexual violence.
On the flip-side of the coin, boys are adored from their childhood as future decision-makers of the household. Parents often turn a blind eye to their faults and misbehaviours. They are rarely held accountable for their mistakes or sexual mistreatment. Such practices essentially grant them impunity and harbour sexual entitlement.
Finally, their sense of impunity amalgamates with a tad bit of superiority through popular narratives suggesting that women are weak or that they are dumb, albeit in the form of jokes. These jokes eventually get normalised, and find permanent abodes in their subconscious mind, subtly dictating their future actions.
As a result, the sexually frustrated, egotistically entitled men fail to handle rejection since it is a fairly new concept to them. In the face of rejection, their sense of authority is shattered, leaving them stranded in an abyss of insecurity. So, they take action to reaffirm their superiority, often in the form of violence.
On top of this, society tells women that sexuality is their most precious attribute. For some reason, their dignity resides within their reproductive organs. This narrative is well injected into our subconscious through popular media and cinemas alike. Now, what better way to seek revenge against women than to take away her so-called dignity?
Moreover, women are overwhelmingly less likely to report a rape since victims often face undue social scrutiny and character assassination.
Another crucial aspect of male upbringing is the exertion of strength. Men are supposed to be strong and emotionally invincible. They are not supposed to cry or feel vulnerable. As a result, whenever men are faced with a challenge to their superiority, instead of processing that challenge in a healthy manner, they resort to violence.
Some may bring up the point of sexual frustration. As mentioned, private property is central to the existence of patriarchy. Hence, the entire value of men is associated with their financial capabilities. Men are not allowed to satisfy their basic sexual needs unless they are considerably affluent.
Most women are attracted to successful men due to the value we assign to property. Pre-marital sex is also considered a taboo in most traditional societies. Hence, men are mostly left sex-deprived despite reaching sexual maturity.
However, claiming that a sexually frustrated men will inevitably resort to sexual violence is a bit of a logical leap. In fact, sexually frustrated men resort to violence only when they feel powerful enough to think that they can get away with it. That happens when the state fails to balance the playing field with a well-functioning criminal justice system.
Some may seek vigilante justice or may want to hang the rapist. While such actions may seem appealing, they fail to address the root of the problem and are in no way consistent with the tenets of the criminal justice system.
In fact, violence will persist as long as power disparities continue to exist. However, the state can tip the scale in favour of the victims through prompt investigation and proper execution of criminal justice. This will create a deterrence mechanism counterbalancing the sense of power in perpetrators.
More importantly, there has to be a societal reconstruction in thought and practices. Opportunities and resources must be equitably distributed among the sexes. Boys must be held accountable for their actions. Parents have to keep faith in their daughters' capability to support them in the future.
In the meantime, men will have to make an active effort to unlearn their toxic attributes and try to be a better human being.
Sheikh Rafi Ahmed is a fourth-year student at the Department of Economics, University of Dhaka.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.