Monday, 10 May, 2021
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Normalisation of Rape Culture



normalisation-of-rape-culture

Sampada Dhungana

On average, six rape cases are reported daily in Nepal. The number of reported rape cases has continued to rise despite the strict laws. A sharp rise has been seen over the last years.
During the fiscal year 2018/2019, 2,230 cases of rape and 786 rape attempts were reported. The fiscal year 2019/2020 witnessed 2,144 rape cases and 686 rape attempts.
In the last fiscal year alone, police arrested 1,085 individuals and filed cases against 312 individuals in the Kathmandu Valley for sexual harassment and other offences in public places. With nearly 6,000 cases of rape and attempts to rape, several other crimes have also been recorded in the past two fiscal years.
These are only the reported cases. In our country, many cases go unreported for several reasons like social taboos and fear. According to Nepal Police, the number of other crimes decreased during the lockdown except for rape and suicide cases.

Suppression
Every time we come across writing about violence against women, we encounter the word 'rape culture. What is rape culture? Rape culture is a culture in which sexual assault is treated as a norm and the victims are blamed for the assaults they encountered.
Rape culture pressurises women to give up opportunities and freedom to be safe. It is kept alive through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women's bodies, and the glamorisation of sexual violence. Sexual assault is normalised in our culture leading to lower reporting and conviction. Rape culture treats rape as a problem that can be solved by improving the behaviour of the victim rather than holding the potential rapist accountable.
The rape culture pyramid is divided into three categories normalization, degradation and assault. The three categories clearly show the root level of rape culture is practised daily in Nepalese society as a normal factor. Objectification of women, making a rape-joke, using sexist lyrics of a song, flirting to the extent that it makes the woman uncomfortable, assuming her loud makeup or short dress means she's 'asking for it, calling an ambitious and opinionated woman bossy, stalking, sexist attitude, locker room talks are very common in our society and constitute rape culture.
Stalking is glamorised as a part of the initial phase of love life. As we move from the base of the pyramid to the top we see a gradual increase in the harmfulness of crimes. Rape culture however teaches women to focus on how to prevent assault and harassment rather than teaching men why they shouldn't assault.

Encouragement to Abusers
The normalisation of rape culture increases the confidence of the abuser. Rape culture blames rape survivors for their victimisation and we tell women because they did not dress or behave in a certain way that it is their fault for being sexually assaulted. The victim-blaming attitude makes it harder for the victim to come forward and report the abuse. If the victim knows that society blames the victim for the assault it becomes difficult for the victim to come forward and even makes the abuser more confident while avoiding his accountability.
Our "Nepalese culture" makes it harder for women to come forward as the social taboos blame them for their assault and makes their life harder rather than supporting and motivating them. The societal norms and values pressurise both women as well as men. How men should always be strong, masculine and shouldn't express their feelings because expressing feeling is perceived as being weaker and according to our culture only women can express feelings but men can't.
Our culture also portrays men to be aggressive and normalises the harassment men perform on their wives just because they are married. Marriage doesn't permit a man to assault his wife physically or mentally. Society makes it harder for the victim and the victim's family to come forward and makes them feel guilty for the crime they never committed.
The media normalises sexual violence and spreads myths about rape. Rape culture is a human rights issue rooted in patriarchal societies. The deeply rooted patriarchy in our society has always dominated women and excluded women from participation, contact with and prevented them from attaining higher position both economically and politically in both personal and professional life.
From creating item songs that objectify women to eve-teasing, from slut-shaming to revenge porn, from stalking to using acid for destroying faces every crime small or big is being normalised and treated as an inevitable problem. The normalisation of rape culture is even more prevalent in South Asia than in the western part. The South Asian movies must be held accountable as it is consumed in mass by people in South Asia and these movies promote highly patriarchal plots and regressive content where women are demonstrated as a person having no agency in interpersonal and sexual relationships.
Music tends to have a strong impact and influences the mind, attitudes, and identity of adolescents every day. But the music at present also consists of misogynistic language and the lyrics contain derogatory words to describe women.

Patriarchal Behaviour
Over the years, studies have been performed to determine how exposure to music with misogynistic lyrics can cause a person to become sexually aggressive and violent to their significant other. Rape culture is being normalised because of the normalisation of patriarchal behaviours and the "boys will be boys" attitude. An insane myth in our society is that men's aggressive and violent behaviour is natural, and therefore sexual assault is up to the victim to avoid.
Men are not naturally predatory. Such behaviour is a product of rape culture. Sexual assault and harassment happen in plain sight because we normalize them. There is a presence of rape culture in our language. When people joke about sexual assault they demean the impact of sexual assault.
Feminism means believing inequality of sexes. Today, feminism has become an often-hated movement in society. The stereotype associated with feminism is that feminists hate men and want power over them which is not true. Feminists work to end the patriarchy and male-dominated society that we live in. They work to end all the discriminations against women and provide them with equal rights as men have in our society. Also, they work to end all the social culture infamous for making women suffer.
Different articles get published and new headlines can be seen everywhere about the increasing violence against women in our country. Despite all this, we are still unable to prevent it. This is not a new topic and is not taken out from some books.
It is a situation that takes place every day in our society. But we as a society haven't been able to take up measures to prevent it. The people, the society, the government needs to come together and put out collective efforts to reduce violence against women and make our country safer for women where they can live a dignified life without any fear and prosper.

(Dhungana is a student at KUSOM)