To my way of thinking, rape is only comparable to physical and mental torture as a crime of violence. It is not only a physically violent attack, worse still it causes mental, emotional and spiritual trauma that lasts a lifetime. Being robbed, having your pockets picked, your house robbed or your car stolen, you feel violated. And this is only property, things that were taken from you. But when it is your body that is violated, not only is your physical privacy invaded, but your spirit is exposed, degraded, wounded and bloodied. Not only is your body invaded, hurt and forcibly wounded, but your mind is lacerated, scarred for life, a sceptic wound that never heals, an anguish that lasts a lifetime.
Rape is a crime of violence. It can be committed against a woman, a man or a child. It is a crime committed by an abnormal person, someone who has a part of their humanity missing. Someone who is full of anger, whether apparent or hidden, anger at himself primarily, anger at the world at large but which finally focuses on one person on whom he takes it out. Rape has little to do with the victim, though it’s effect is life changing. It has more to do with the criminal committing the crime. The whole problem is with the criminal. He/she is not a sick person. They are people who are missing certain parts of humanity. They are not insane, that is too lenient a judgement. They are people who have lost the most important part of their humanity: empathy.
Without empathy there is alienation, isolation, there is just oneself and the rest of the world. Add to this a feeling of strong resentment which finds no outlet, so turns into anger that needs to be vented on whoever is deemed to be weaker. It is one of the most despicable crimes, as part of it is not only the physical violence, but also the spiritual, emotional and mental degradation. This, just as much as the physical aspect of the rape, is what the rapist needs. That feeling of superiority, of having the upper hand, the ability to cause harm or not. This God-like feeling which such individuals have are usually to compensate for a strong feeling of inferiority.
Understanding the reasons behind the acts of such people in no way condones their behavior, nor does it excuse it, nor, to my mind, would be considered as extenuating circumstances. The enormity of the harm caused by such a crime is such as no circumstance can exonerate it in any form. No matter what the circumstances of the rapist are, this is a deliberate act of terrible harm committed against an innocent victim.
The punishment for such a crime must be equal to the crime. This view will raise a storm with human rights activists. But to me, it is the victim and their family whose rights should be considered in this instance. The trauma is not limited to the rape victim, but spreads to the victim’s family and society. Who looks after their rights? Human nature being what it is, justice can, to a certain extent, assuage part of the pain caused by the crime. I do not say revenge, but justice.
Where does justice stop and revenge take over? Would the death penalty be considered appropriate for ruining the life of an individual and their family? Would the idea of capital punishment be a deterrent for others? Would life imprisonment, with hard labor and without the possibility of parole be more appropriate? Like the rapist ruined the rest of the life of the victim, have his life ruined by incarceration and hard labour for life. Some have suggested going even further. Castration. A physical and mental anguish comparable to that of rape. Would this spill into the territory of revenge?
For a society to be able to devise the appropriate punishment for such a crime, it has to balance between the effect of such a crime on society as a whole and what would be deemed as justice for a wrong that has been committed. In a conservative, mainly agrarian, and strongly religious society, such a crime is an unbearable atrocity of pain and shame. If the laws do not take that into consideration, there is a very good chance that vigilante action would be taken by the family of the victim.
Not long ago, in Upper Egypt, in a very conservative society, a schoolboy was raped by his teacher. The maximum penalty for such a horrifying crime is imprisonment for 15 years. To the father of this child, that was totally unacceptable. He did not wait for “justice” to be applied, he took matters into his own hands, took his gun and went to the school to look for the teacher-rapist. The Principal of that school tried to stop him and got shot for his efforts. The furious father then gunned down the rapist, and turned himself in to the authorities. How would you feel if it was a member of your family that was the victim of this heinous crime? What kind of justice would satisfy you? Death? Castration? Life imprisonment with hard labor without parole? A fine? Rehabilitation in a sanitarium?
When rape is used as a political means of torture and a deterrent, as punishment and revenge, then to my way of thinking, not only the rapist(s) but also the instigators, must be tried and given the death penalty. The effect of such a crime is a life-lasting anguish, and the only justice for it, in my view, is death. Over the past week, two such crimes were committed. The first was at a spontaneous gathering of the people to celebrate the victory of Al Sisi in the Presidential elections. This rape was organized carried out and even filmed by the Muslim Brotherhood and their media representative. At that time there was no police around as the gathering was spontaneous, so no police could be seen trying to rescue the young girl. But the modus operendi of the crime was exactly the same as was used by the Muslim Brotherhood in trying to intimidate the most vociferous sector of society, the women. A circle of something like fifty men, surround and isolate a single female, building a wall of humanity between her and the rest of the people, then she is stripped and usually violated by hands, but in this case the girl was fully stripped, raped and stabbed for good measure. Not only was her exposed, abused body fully filmed, but her face as well as the blood on her body from the violent gang rape and the knife wounds. The girl is now hospitalized. The second rape took place a week later, at the now policed rally, where people went to celebrate Al Sisi’s swearing in. The same method was used, but this time a mother and her teenaged daughter were surrounded and stripped. This time the people around became aware of what was going on, they started wading in through the human shield the gang of rapists had erected around the victims, and a very brave policeman started shooting in the air to disperse the crowd. He finally managed to reach the victims, and with the help of some honest citizens, but with great difficulty, extricated the two women who were then hospitalized. Immediately after this incident took place, the video of the first fully filmed rape was downloaded on YouTube and spread like wildfire. It was entitled, this is how Al Sisi supporters celebrate. If nothing else, just this title gives the game away. It was a deliberate, politically motivated crime, that was committed with political gain of some sort in mind. These are the crimes for which the death penalty should apply. Even if committed by minors. If they are old enough to rape, they are old enough to be put to death.
It is up to each society to decide, according to its own customs, traditions and concepts, the extent of the crime and the appropriateness of the justice meted out.
10 June 2014
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