Every rape takes place more than once, actually. First it takes place in the form of physical politics, next by concealing the political aspect of the incident and then during the trial process. Even after a 'successful' trial, the rape victim bears the psychological scars of 'criminal guilt' for the rest of her life. And once the court passes its verdict, the society forgets all about that trauma. This forgetting is a fully conscious action. Even after 'exemplary punishment' is meted out, can the raped woman live in mental peace? Or do her psychological scars convey a message of invisible yet permanent fear to all other women?
These 'scars' and this 'fear' are certainly political matters. Politics create that reality where rape becomes a culture. Such a society is built upon past and present politics.
The double standards in the lessons of how a man can behave and how a woman is to behave, bears the seeds of rape.
Cause of rape lies within society
Why does a woman have to be so concerned about her body and why do men want to pounce on her? The explanation lies within society. Women's repression by man lies in all the dialogue of society, in its education, culture, economic relations and in the prevailing political climate. Those at the helm of society have assiduously woven this propensity towards rape into the social fabric. As a result, every male has been groomed as a potential rapist.
The objective of this social endeavour is to establish full control over women by any means. Rape is an element of that endeavour. It is simply an unacknowledged weapon of acknowledged means of social education. Its sole aim is to coerce women as a community.
Women exist more or less in an environment of fear. They are taught to exist in such a manner. The double standards in the lessons of how a man can behave and how a woman is to behave, bears the seeds of rape. With proper nurturing, those seeds grow into a sapling, with perpetual growth and propagation. Candles lit at Shaheed Minar cannot stunt its growth.
This is a political matter. Rape is an institutional issue. How can our institutions prevent rape without undergoing reforms?
Rape is a political occurrence
Exactly one year and ten months ago, a gang rape took place on the night of the general elections, at Subarnachar, 30 km away from Eklashpur, Begumganj. We have already forgotten about that. Many candles burned, many protests were voiced, but that did not prevent rape in the neighbouring thana Eklashpur.
Rape was rare 50 years ago in the Bandarban community or the Garo settlements of Tangail. But it is no longer rare there. Is this new social phenomenon in Bandarban a crisis of ethics? Local people say that politics has brought in rape culture from the plains. In other words, a 'system' has been relocated from the plains. It is not a sudden moral breakdown.
Rape is related to the exertion of force. The political connotations are clear.
All the national outcries and outpouring of protest against the Delwar gang of Eklashpur will amount to nothing unless, rather than the one-and-a-half video of the rape, we take a look at the bigger picture that has been created over the decades.
Why rape will not step for the time being
Many men will not be pleased if rape is termed as a political weapon of war for men. Of course all men do not lust to commit rape. And all women are not victims of rape. It is only a section of male society that is afflicted with this propensity towards rape. That is sufficient for this politics. This is enough to establish a rule of fear and control over women as a society.
Even the demands to end rape convey this despicable political aspect. It is said, 'Women need security'. Who will provide that security? Who holds that power? We know the answer. Has anyone ever demanded security for men? Society is not so foolish.
By demanding 'security for women', we are acknowledging social politics where women are the controlled and men are the controllers.
Very few countries, even today, consider rape during war to be a punishable crime. It is just recorded as collateral of victory and defeat in the pages of history.
Many have an anger within them about rape. They are angry at the increase in incidents of rape. They want the rapists to be tried. There have been many such 'exemplary' trials. The 'Delwar gang' may be tried too one day. But such trials mean nothing more than imprisoning a couple of men or hanging one or two of them. But is rape only a physical matter? Is there any anger against the family, education and economic persuasions that usher in rape? We do not have the nerve to look at the root of the problem.
And so for the time being, there is hardly any possibility of rape coming to a halt. Some rapists will be caught speedily, some more delayed. Some will not be caught at all. And we will not ever be able to even imagine catching the politics of rape.
Actually the sudden and sporadic arrest and punishing of rapists serves to refresh the politics and economics of rape. All the national outcries and outpouring of protest against the Delwar gang of Eklashpur will amount to nothing unless, rather than the one-and-a-half video of the rape, we take a look at the bigger picture that has been created over the decades. These video snippets are just parts of the actual picture. We must view that picture if rape is to be prevented. We must reach out there.
But will we do that? According to the human rights organisation Odhikar, 635 rapes took place in 2018. The next year this number almost doubled to 1,080. In 2018, a total of 89 gang rapes took place. The next year this number shot up to 150.
Rape is not just increasing, it is taking on a public character. All these facts and figures have a cautionary warning for the future. If we care to be cautious.
*Altaf Parvez is a researcher of South Asian history. This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir