Monday January 14, 2013
Time to nix the niceness
SAMBAL ON THE SIDE
By BRENDA BENEDICT
Having been brought up on a litany of what nice girls shouldn’t do, the writer is seething that despite keeping to their short end of a misogynistic social bargain, women still end up as losers.
I AM enraged. When the lurid details of the Delhi gang rape case were first reported, my only reaction was that “the punishment must fit the crime.”
Ditch “the right to legal representation” and “innocent until proven guilty”.
Those six degenerates who savaged that poor woman should also be tortured and humiliated for the rest of their miserable lives.
Call me irrational if you want. But I’ll bet there are a fair number of you out there who harbour similar thoughts.
As for those who want to look beyond the crime and into their backgrounds, I have only one question: Can you honestly tell me that you would be comfortable to have them as your neighbours after they’ve “served their time,” “undergone counselling” and “atoned for their sins”? Really?
The heinousness of their crime exhibits no respect for women. No, let me reword that: no respect for human beings as well as for the intrinsic contract that we are all beholden to, namely to respect the sanctity of life.
I am enraged at societies that stubbornly perpetuate the idea that women and the girl child are secondary beings whose primary role is to probably bear male heirs or be someone’s punching bag when the mood dictates. Otherwise, there’s always infanticide, acid, the “accidental” kitchen fire or explosives to rid society of this “weaker sex.”
But why point fingers at India? It has happened and continues to happen in our own backyard. Ang May Hong, Audrey Melissa Bathinathan, Noor Suzaily Mukhtar, Canny Ong and Nurin Jazlin Jazimin – among many unnamed others – are stark reminders of a system that has failed women here, too.
The facts of each of their cases totally flies in the face of the litany of things that “nice girls shouldn’t do to avoid rape” that was constantly preached to my peers and me while we were growing up.
If anything, they only reinforce the fact that rape does not distinguish between a miniskirt and a baju kurung; a ponytail and a tudung; daylight and a dark alley; time and age. Anyone is fair game.
Rape is an act of violence that uses sex as a weapon. It is a crime like any other, for which culpability lies squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator.
And yet, often enough, there are musings on whether one might have “incited” it.
If so, how do you explain the Dec 27 report of an Ipoh-based quartet of father, aunt, uncle and grandfather who are alleged to have sexually abused their eight- and six-year-old female family members at home? I must underscore their ages – eight and six. To me, anyone who thinks a child incites sexual advances is sick and needs to be put away indefinitely.
Sicker still are rapists’ “justifications” of being under the influence of drink or drugs or that they “tak boleh tahan”, or that the survivor had “to be taught a lesson”, or one of the worst I’ve come across, “she was manja with me.” The last is an officially recorded statement by a man who had raped his granddaughter.
As a journalist, I want to be rational and understand the findings of countless studies of the effects of poverty, lack of education, imbalanced socio-economic development, rapid urbanisation, pornography, video games, and entrenched social mores that might shed light on the motives for rape.
But as a human being, I cannot see past the brutality that is inflicted with impunity on rape survivors or victims, be it in Malaysia, India or any war zone worldwide.
As an educated person, I know that violence only begets violence.
As an enraged person, I see a prison sentence as an easy way out for these menaces to society. Granted that prison is no utopia, they nevertheless get to live, have their meals and a roof over their heads, and the possibility of getting out someday.
Is that fair?
Could making a graphic and very public example of convicted wrongdoers help hit home the message that society does not tolerate rape and murder? I don’t know, but it appears that the current legal sanctions aren’t deterring enough.
Perhaps the media, too, could change tack.
Focus less on the survivor/victim’s background, looks or dress and the sordid details of the attack itself, and instead attack the social myths surrounding rape and stress the fact that it is never justified.
Or name and shame proven perpetrators.
Anything to warn those contemplating the crime that they’ll be very, very sorry for it.
Anything before yet another falls prey to this most abominable of crimes.
Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian living in Frankfurt. She is incapable of a pithy ending this week.