Whenever a rape is reported in the media you can almost always be guaranteed that the majority of people commenting on the news will be calling for the death penalty as a punishment for such the crime. And fittingly so, some would say. Rape is one of the worst crimes one can commit upon a human being.
And as a feminist, myself, I will admit that at times my voice has been the loudest in the chorus of people demanding a sterner punishment for rapists.
But that was before I truly began to think about the possible repercussions of establishing the death penalty as the punishment for rape.
Before we jump to conclusions I think these are some questions we must ask ourselves as a community.
What are the possible negative psychological effects executing the rapist could have on a victim?
I began to ask myself a question when I read somewhere that a community had murdered a thirty-seven year-old man that had raped a six year old girl. I was taken aback by a very new thought: ‘what would the little girl think of this as she grew older?’
“In November 2010, South Africans were shocked when a video showing two teenage boys allegedly raping a young girl made headlines. The clip, which had been taped at Jules High School in Johannesburg and distributed online, confirmed many parents’ worst nightmare; very young kids are having sex on school premises, and, moreover, they’re being reckless, unsafe, and ignorant.’
What? When I read the beginning of this article, titled “The Kids Aren’t Alright” in January 2013’s issue of True Love magazine I didn’t immediately understand why I got so ferociously angry at its author for having put it like this. I mean, the rest of the article itself is an informative report by Jaqueline Cochrane on the state of South Africa’s sex education, and relatively harmless except for this one paragraph. But it is precisely this one paragraph that at first made it impossible for me to put aside the venomous anger bubbling up inside of me and finish the article.
Lets read through the paragraph together: “In November 2010, South Africans were shocked when a *video showing two teenage boys allegedly raping a young girl* made headlines. The clip, which had been taped at Jules High School in Johannesburg and distributed online, confirmed many parents’ worst nightmare; very young kids are having sex on school premises, and, moreover, they’re being reckless, unsafe, and ignorant.’
You see the part in bold? Does it seem odd to you? Read it again, and then read the rest of the excerpt.
The writer of this column starts off by mentioning two very serious crimes. Firstly, the production and distribution of illegal pornographic material featuring a real under-aged victim, and secondly, the “alleged” raping of a young girl. And then proceeds to write about “kids having sex in school”. The rest of the article is hundreds of words about under-aged sex and next to zero words about rape.
The concept that women cause rape is laughable at its best and at its worst – a terrifying indicator of how little respect our societies have for the female person. The law passed recently in Swaziland is a sad mixture of both.
The Swazi Monarch has decided that banning women from dressing ‘provocatively’ is a sure-fire way to prevent rape.
Because everyone knows only women dressed in mini-skirts and low-rise jeans can get raped. It only takes a quick look at the very low rape-rate in Islamic countries where only conservative garb is tolerated on women to see this.
But it’s not weird. Because this has nothing to do with women’s clothing. Rape never does.
Rape is about control. And laws like the one passed in a country like Swaziland where traditional ceremonies in the King’s honour are more than tolerant of scantily-clad minors are still a firm fixture of the country’s cultural identity, are proof of this.
What we are looking at here is a very common situation that happens in the mind of many men groomed in the pits of their patriarchal societies. We are looking at a kind of thinking that these men hold onto—the kind of logic that makes them believe that a woman’s body is theirs to police.