Photo: Prachatai
Photo: Prachatai

By Jordan Short

Back in December the 23-yearold physiotherapy student, from Delhi, now known as ‘India’s daughter’, was attacked, gang raped by six men and violated with an iron bar after she boarded a bus with a friend as they returned from the cinema. She was beaten so badly that 95 per cent of her intestines had to be removed in a series of operations and she died 13 days later in a Singapore hospital where doctors said she had suffered from severe internal and brain injuries, a heart attack and abdominal infections.

Whilst in hospital she gave a statement that will be used for the prosecution: “The conductor closed the doors of the bus. He closed the lights of the bus and came towards my friend and started abusing and beating him. They held his hands and held me and took me to the back of the bus. They tore my clothes and raped me in turns. They hit me with an iron rod and bit me on my entire body with their teeth. They took all belongings, my mobile phone, purse, credit card, debit card, watches etc. Six people raped me in turns for nearly one hour in a moving bus. The driver of the bus kept changing so that he could also rape me.”

Her brutal murder has sparked uproar throughout India, with mass demonstrations for women’s rights and calls for tougher rape laws.A lawyer for three of the accused has claimed his clients have been tortured and coerced into admitting the crime by the police and the three of them are to plead not guilty. The case is still being tried and the verdict and sentencing will come out later this month.

In light of this case it seems an appropriate and necessary time to talk about rape and the reality of rape in our own country. Rape in England and Wales has a very low attrition rate which basically means the rate of reporting is much higher than the conviction rate. Last year there could have been up to 85,000 rape victims, of this only 15,670 were recorded by the police, 2,910 went to court and 1,070 were convicted.

There are numerous reasons as to why the conviction rate is low and jurors’ perceptions of what rape is can have an effect on this. Many people in society are susceptible to rape myths and that the victims who are raped “Deserve it” either by drinking too much alcohol, acting in a promiscuous way or wearing provocative clothing. These are a few of the many myths that are present surrounding rape.

For a large majority of people, when they think of rape they are thinking of stranger rapes, which you hear in the media, of the man waiting in the bushes with a weapon for the lonely girl to walk home, or something similar. However, in reality this is not the case. That type of scenario makes up a small minority of rape cases, whilst the majority actually occur within the home and many of the rapes are committed by an attacker that the victim already knows, sometimes referred to as “acquaintance rape” or “date rape”.

In some areas the attitude is one of ignorance, more affluent areas may deem themselves “rape free” and believe that rape does not happen there because it is a nice area. Furthermore, there is a perception among victims that what happened to them was not rape. 43% of women who had been raped were more likely to describe the event as rape if they sustained a physical injury but most rapes do not involve a weapon and statistics suggest that in over 90% of 5,100 rapes reported to the Metropolitan police in 2001-2 and 2002-3 no weapon was used or implied.

Today the law stands under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which identifies that penile penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person without their consent is rape. This recognizes that oral penetration is also rape and that men too can be victims of rape. However, for obvious reasons men that are raped are even less likely to report it because of the embarrassment they feel and the stereotypical view that the man should be strong and able to resist anything unwanted.

Consent to sex is vital and it is imperative that both men and women should understand that no means no and if there is no consent the attacked could become a victim of rape and the attacker a criminal.