Saturday, 22 December 2012

An Act Of Unimaginable Horror

[Warning: This post contains graphic details of violence and cruelty. If you are a minor and/or tend to be greatly disturbed by such accounts, please do not read further.]

Calling some crimes "rape" doesn't do justice to their horror.

We have been hearing for a few days now about the rape case in Delhi when a young woman and a male companion were assaulted by six men when they boarded a private bus one night. She was not only raped but the two of them were also "beaten with iron rods". She is now fighting for her life in hospital, and she wrote a courageous and heartbreaking note to her mother saying she wants to live. But the reports also added something I found strange: her intestines had to be removed as they had become gangrenous.

Why would a woman's intestines have to be removed after a rape?

I found out later that it was because this was more than a rape. It was an attack shocking in its utter ruthlessness and brutality.

I have read only one news item that sheds light on this.

A doctor in the hospital said that it appeared that the girl had been violated with a metal rod.

“It appears to be that a rod was inserted into her and it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines along. That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines,” he said.

According to sources, one of the accused persons who were brought to the hospital for a medical examination on Tuesday confessed to having seen a rope-like object — likely her intestines — being pulled out of the girl by the other assailants on the bus. The sources said that the girl had bite marks on her body.

I must confess I was shaking with shock when I read this, and it has taken me a while to recover sufficiently to be able to write this. This is not "rape". This is an act of unimaginable cruelty and horror. What kind of depravity leads some men to such acts?

I remember reading that many US soldiers in Vietnam earned an informal "honour" of being known as "double veterans" once they had raped and then mutilated a woman with a bayonet.

At a certain level, I can still understand rape (although I hardly condone it). In a society where women are routinely objectified, sexual desire overcomes a man and he ceases to take a woman's refusal seriously and he forces her to have sex with him. If only that is all there is to it! It seems there is something sick in the minds of some men that they have to inflict horrific cruelty upon the women they have sex with.

Sex is supposed to be an act of love. It staggers me that sex can be combined with cruelty, and such unspeakable cruelty at that. How twisted these men must be!

Understandably, there are big protests going on in Delhi and other parts of India at the time of writing, but all of them refer to this shocking crime as just "rape". Even though it would be highly disturbing, I believe people must be made to confront the full horror of what happened to this unfortunate young woman (who will most likely have to be fed intravenously throughout her life unless, as I hope, she is able to receive an intestinal transplant sometime in future).

The protests will go on, and there may be a few measures that are instituted in response, to make women safer in public places, but we really have to confront the cruelty that has permeated our society. When ordinary-looking people walking about around us are capable of such barbarity, what faith can we have in society anymore?

That's why, in spite of my horror, I refuse to join in the chorus for the death penalty even for men such as these! In my opinion, the death penalty is institutionalised barbarity, which is as bad as the crimes it is meant to punish and deter. We imbibe cruelty into our way of thinking when we call for the death penalty. That is definitely not the way to a more humane society.

What is the most humane way to deal with such crimes, then?

Not unusually, Australia seems to have answers that the rest of the world could look to. This report ("Chemical castration, or it's back to jail") discusses a possible solution.

Quite apart from dealing with crimes as they happen, we (as individuals and as communities) need to seriously introspect about cruelty and about how to become less cruel. I have been thinking for a while now that the core moral principle to be taught from childhood is empathy, which is when we feel another's pain as our own. Every other aspect of morality follows from that principle - injunctions against dishonesty, theft, murder and yes, rape. And no, religion is not the answer. The judgemental approach of most of the world's religions towards sexual behaviour, particularly the tendency to regulate normal female sexuality, is what has brought us to this pass.

Let's work towards a humanistic moral code based on empathy. If this poor woman's ordeal is not to remain a meaningless misfortune, it must spur us to evolve. All of us.

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