‘Change your dress dear, it is very fancy’, ‘do not put this lip color, it is eye-catching’- hardly a girl can be found out who did not get such lessons from the mother. Girls often face people’s awkward staring when she wears jeans, t-shirts, bold lip colors and even a Shari. Society seems to be seriously concerned about what girls wear rather than her protection.

There’s basically no difference in between rapists and people who think wearing red lipsticks and fancy dress is an invitation to rape, both thinkings supports or leads to a common factor ‘rape’. Blaming a rape victim instead of the perpetrator, on the ground of ‘dress’ or ‘appearances’ is the most unfortunate fact we have ever discovered nowadays.

Unfortunately, when the rapists should be mocked and socially abandoned when the law enforcing agencies’ failure to catch the criminal or their inactive roles should be criticized- we keep ourselves busy in mocking and measuring the victim’s appearance or dress at first hand. ‘Dress’ is being showcased and believed to be a major factor to increase rape in many societies, especially in the Indian subcontinent.

A raped woman is seemed like the most unpleasant ‘thing’ in a society. She is seen as an untouchable entity, a symbol of impurity, having no grace rather a disgrace to her family, being bashed, socially abandoned, threatened by wrongdoers’ family. Socially, physically, mentally, she becomes a ‘living dead body’, often resulting in incidents like suicide or an attempt to suicide. She suffers acute trauma, identity crisis and has to go through unimaginable mental agony. But the unbearably ugly matter is, despite understanding her or applying sympathy on her wounds when people accuse the victim as guilty herself- the guilt of not maintaining properly the socially declared ‘dress code’. This is one of the most blatantly stupid perceptions that justifies rape.

The society presupposes that when a man rapes a woman, the woman might appear in such kind of dress that created a sexual impulse, bodily attraction and made the man compel to rape her. Where you should prevent a person or stopping him while sexually harassing or touching a woman, you are accusing a woman of wearing a dress, all your focus and attention are being given to the attire, not to the offense committed.

When your attitude is hooked upon a mere outfit, unable to see the misdemeanor- you really need to fix up your sight and rethink your purpose on earth being a human. It is the thinking, not the dress that needs to be changed. Wearing office-wear or western costumes is one of the gross accusations thrown at a rape victim. People are quite ignorant of the fact that attitudes like- ‘if she wears a colorful fancy dress she will definitely get raped as it attracts boys and men’ works as a social approval to the rape culture that certifies therapists’ activities.

We need to put caution in the mentality and wrongful activities of men before accusing a girl of a dress. When we blame a girl for dress, therapists get the excuse to repeat the act he has done. We have to create fear in the rapists’ minds by establishing judicial independence, immediate stringent action, police indulgence and constant check on perpetrators as well as our own cautiousness and that is how we need to combat rape culture. But the dangerous input of ‘dressing sense’ in the brain is a devastating attitude that can only motivate and produce more potential rapists as output.

There is innumerable evidence that reassures us that dress is not a factor in rape rather the pervertedness of therapists. According to horrific statistics of the Manusher Jonno Foundation, there were 2973 negative news reports in 2018. There are 345 rape case news was found in 2018 analyzing 6 national dailies of our country in which 356 rape victims were the child and among these 356 children, 22 died after the rape, 334 were seriously injured and 53 attempts to rape cases. Studying the facts of these rape cases, it was found that therapists were neighbors, relatives, family friends, apart from strangers. 102 child was raped by their neighbors- the study says.

The Study also says among these victims 46 were aged between 1-6 years, 137 aged between 7-12 years, 131 aged 13-18 years. Moreover, 10 children were reported to be raped who were boys. The foundation also depicted that as per non-governmental information source, from January-May in the year 2019, 233 child rape cases were reported among which 6 were boys. Thus, it is as clear as daylight that dresses are not at all in any way be linked to rape.

We show finger at the duty of the victim to dress properly but do not realize reminding the duty of the person not to cause harm to another person (women), to look a girl as human, not to rape her. Unknowingly or knowingly, we are promoting rape culture- not only by our failure to protect or taking measures but also by our words, thinking and attitudes towards rape victims. The matter is worst when people even defend the rapists as if raping the girl is the right way to make her understand her mistake of wearing fancy dresses. We should condemn the rapist rather than questioning the outlook or attire of the victim.

Often the family is not very happy to get the raped child back, a man is rarely willing to accept a rape victim as a bride, society is seldom ready to accept her as a human anymore, and by whom the society is made of? Somehow, we all are liable to what situation a rape victim has to go through and the insecure position of women in society. Be it nasty character assassination, thousands of piercing glances or scolding questions- all are thrown at a rape victim, not a rapist. Even sometimes women are not seemed to be empathetic rather insult a rape victim.

We have the Penal Code, 1860, a special law like Nari-O-Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain, 2000 inflicting heavy punishments and even death penalty, to deal with rape but could neither satisfactorily succeed in reducing the number of rape victims nor in ensuring punishments to the perpetrators.

So, it is to some extent obvious that only law is not sufficient to control the barbarous minds of rapists. We should both civilize and humanize ourselves first because of rapists look-alike is human and live among us for which we cannot identify them unless they expose their brutality. We need to detox our thoughts and conscience by strengthening our moral and ethical values through proper moral education besides academic learning, counseling, and creating legal and social awareness to tackle rape culture.

As a first step, basic legal education in the national curriculum is a reliable way to deal with rape culture. Educating boys and men especially as to how rape is a human rights violation can be a fruitful approach to change the social stereotypes and put a full-stop in rape culture. Rape is a violation of crucial human rights that is Right to Life enshrined in Article 6 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR). As well as Article 7 on Freedom from Torture or Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Article 9 on The Right to Liberty and Security, Article 14 on Right to Fair Trial, Article 16 on Right to Recognition Everywhere as a Person Before the Law, Article 24 on Rights of the Child and most importantly Article 26 on Equality Before Law of ICCPR.

Rape is also a violation of the rights given and acknowledged in Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1966, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979 and Convention on the Rights Of the Child (CRC), 1989, in case of child rape.

In the supreme domestic law, ‘Rape’ is a sheer violation of Article 32 of The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh which reconfirms the Protection of Right to Life and Personal Liberty. The state acknowledges all legal rights of a rape victim in Article 27 of the Constitution, which is Equality before Law and Article 31 that is Right to Protection of Law.

 Article 11of the Constitution signifying human rights declares that-           

“The Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human prison shall be guaranteed…” 

Instead of justifying rape, we must start teaching the male first to respect every woman, differentiate between consensual and non-consensual sexual intercourse, when sexual intercourse is called rape, why rape is a heinous crime.

We always teach our daughters to walk, sit, talk, behave, dress properly but rarely teach our sons to behave gentle, respect and think decent. One of the most important thing we need to fix in our belief, perception, and behavior is the practice of recognizing, believing women as ‘human’, because in the 21st century still, women are seen as ‘product’, abused as a ‘squeezed orange’, used like a ‘tissue paper’. The statistics of domestic violence or rape are pretty evident in the fact of what extent we are respectful to our womenfolk. Thus, a sense of respect for women is something our boys should be educated with.

Religious education is the second and relatable with the first one in a moral sense. We should teach our children to be pious and follow religious rules accordingly to their religion. Though religion is the most misquoted issue in terms of dressing sense for a girl, it is important to know that religious rules like modesty, decency, mutual respect are not only for females but also for males. Both males and females should maintain decency not only in attire but also in thinking and controlling their own minds.

Child Upbringing is an indirect yet impactful factor to influence a mind to a certain practice good or bad. If a boy child is taught ethical issues, how to treat and respect a girl child, it leaves a grave impression upon him and his personality is built upon that childhood practice and lessons given. Infect, teen boys need to be given the lessons as to how to treat a girl as ‘human’.

It is true that the family does not make rapists but the environment does. It is seen that usually if girls return home late, they are seen skeptically by society and need to face questions in their families. But parents need to make accountable not only the girls but also boys as to why they returned late at home. In the case of their lifestyle, friends, and activities, parents should keep a constant eye on them and need to be as vigilant as they can be.

Parents should scold their son teasing a girl rather than scolding the daughter for wearing jeans. It is good to teach the daughter self-defense but it is best to morally educate the son not to be violent to girls, to show due respect to females, not to abuse or hurt them.

Yes, failure to create soonest check upon criminals, establish strong administration, investigational transparency, fostering speedy trial in rape cases, removing political manipulation, ensuring safe and comfortable medical examinations, reducing practice of using victim’s character as an evidence to create objections, providing highest security to rape victims, are the prime reasons of injustices to rape victims, but social and mental causes are well-connected with rape culture and cannot be overlooked too. The mentality and attitude of a society towards a rape victim need to be changed at first to secure our girls and women. We must use ‘the boy raped her’ instead of ‘she got raped’. There are so many things to do to change our perception, to stop rapes, to protect our girls, women or girl child whatever we say. If we really want to heal society from the noxious grip of rapists, we need to think, rethink, act and react neutrally, logically with due respect to each and every single person in the society, and yes ‘person’ includes girls, women too.

Writer: Evant Bhuiyan

Evnat Bhuiyan – Student: Department of Law

Jagannath University