Another gang rape in India! Again, seemingly in the Delhi area! Again, six men and a single woman on a bus! It seems to me that the trial, conviction and punishment of the perpetrators of the earlier case for the rape and murder of the physiology student should be accelerated. A socio-cultural, public and severe message needs to be sent. It is not only a problem in India. It’s a scourge of society everywhere.
Rape is the use of sexual dominance to intimidate, control and subjugate not only the victim but also all those whom the victims represent. Women are our mothers, sisters, and daughters. Women, to men, ought to be the sacred vessels of life: equal partners with men in the mission to make the world a better and safe place for our children. Men, to women, ought to be sacred protectors, fathers, brothers and sons: equal partners with women in the mission to make the world a better and safe place for our children. Rape is a violation of the sacred temple of humanity regardless what our respective religions or systems of belief. The topic of rape is also one that is “taboo” or prohibited in many places. The time to remove the taboo has come. Let’s talk about rape. It’s a social evil that must be eradicated from the fabric of civil society.
Of course, each society needs to demonstrate swift, certain and uncompromising justice. Rape is not only a problem in India. Women, and sometimes men, confront this kind of threat and violation around the world. No society is immune. As a civilizing force of private citizens, what can Rotary do about the crime of rape? Anyone can be a victim. While it is a crime of sex, criminologists, psychologists and sociologists tell us that, at a more complicated level, it is also a crime of dominance, intimidation, control, power and, sometimes, genocide. Obviously, once the crime has been committed, it becomes an issue of criminal justice: identifying the perpetrators, taking them into custody, trying, convicting and punishing those found guilty. The criminal justice process is not a Rotarian one. Rotary’s role must be one of prevention, of modeling civil behavior between genders, of demonstrating how vulnerable people can be respected and protected, of educating citizens, especially children, to respect each other. We do these things in the fields of health/hygiene, agriculture, economics, religion and cross-cultural understanding. Why not in the field of social engineering and equality of, between and among genders?
Suppose rape were seen as a symptom of an underlying disease of the body of humanity: as an indication of a malady that must be confronted with the same intensity, commitment, and determination as symptoms of polio. Polio is a function of social dynamics as much as it is of a nasty virus. As a social evil, rape is similar to polio. Like polio, the appropriate confrontation to rape requires education, socio-cultural collaboration, political mandates, religious support, and uncompromising legal sanctions. If rape is a symptom, as I believe it to be, what’s the illness? This is a topic worthy of a Rotarian conversation.
Jon Deisher is a member of the Rotary Club of Anchorage, Alaska