Combating sexual violence as a global concern

BangaloreWritten By: Pralakshya SharmaUpdated: May 26, 2020, 05:03 PM IST

Representative image. Photograph:(Reuters)

Story highlights

Officially uniting the world against sexual violence may catalyze change by altering geographical and gender-biased perceptions

Something felt really weird, when my good friend J, who was 11 years old, told me that he and his grandfather were in love since 2 years, and they both kissed and had sex every night.

Though same age as him, I just knew sex was something that happened between an aspirant father and a mother, also husband and a wife, provided former had a penis and latter a vagina. Turned out, I knew so little - my knowledgeable friend that day, passionately explained to me much more, straight out of his experience. And gave me my first - sex education.

The old man died after a few months. And J was sad. Like really sad. But he was mourning two people - his grandfather and a lover.

Talkative J no longer spoke much, his grades tumbled down. He had changed. 

Years went by, life took us to different places, our paths only crossed during holidays. The last time we met, I saw fresh cut marks all over his arms – like he was inflicting upon himself - when I asked him about it, he lightly replied “Kind of a tattoo I like.” Concerned, I suggested him to get a tetanus shot, but wish I knew what depression was.

 There were also rumours that he had started taking drugs. Exactly one month before his 17th birthday, 10 years ago, J died of an overdose. Many say it was suicide.

A painful lump suffocates my throat each time I realise that my first lesson on sex, was a very disturbing, first-hand testimony of an innocent juvenile, who was tricked and raped for two years inside his own home.

Perhaps this story would have been something different today, had our super conservative Indian society taught us the difference between a good touch and a bad touch. Meaningful movies, to explain that sexual violence not only happens to females but any human in general, but most importantly – sexual assaults need not necessarily have to look violent.

Much later did I get to know that even if a victim doesn’t contract deadly STDs like HIV or Hepatitis B, sexual assaults of any kind is life-threatening, the mental trauma can trigger a lot of clinical conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD and most survivors suffer from low self-esteem, shock and confusion, their entire lives.

Yet, every single day, tens of thousands of people around the world are sexually assaulted, irrespective of their gender, age, nationality or physical strength – and even though we bluntly categorise each sexual assault as “sexual” – experts claim, the perpetrator’s motive isn’t necessarily always about sex.

Activists and educators amongst us are really worried right now, and we should because the numbers of sexual violence have been climbing drastically during this pandemic, and with financial distress that’s following and will continue, it’s only going to get worse.

Hence now is the best time to discuss our next steps. But first, it’s important to discard outdated stigmas and look into this matter fresh, like a modern generation from the 21st century.

Solution is simple.

Lesser the number of perpetrators less will be the number of assaults. But what turns a normal looking human into a sexual predator?

I summarize three common reasons;

Intoxicants – we don’t need explanations or examples to associate intoxication with sexual or any other type of violence in general. Intoxicants, especially alcohol has the tendency to bring out the worst in humans hence responsible consumption in a secure environment is really important.

Ignorance & Social Conditioning - Something we Indians understand at its core because, while first-world nations talk about gender pay, women employment, consent, etc. – rural India (Sometimes urban) still struggles with 20th-century problems like female education, female infanticide and child marriages to name a few – hence sociologists are correct when they blame various socio-economic factors like patriarchy, illiteracy, low income, Etc. as the significant contributors behind high rates of violence, particularly on females.

Deliberation – This category is what worries me the most - Paedophiles, repeat offenders, educated rapists who seem to be much more than just a weak product of a struggling society. Perfect shapeshifters, we can come in any form – from grandfather to Oscar-winning film producer, husband, boss, cousin, family doctor, teacher – anyone and everyone can be a sex predator in disguise.

Yet, little J makes me ask a challenging question;

Can we commit ourselves to lower global sexual violence rates as compared to numbers from the last decade? The phrase “Global Pandemic” tells me – we actually can!

Since nations everywhere are struggling with high rates of sexual violence - ordeal is the same no matter which country a victim belongs to - sex and sexuality still remains the greatest taboo of our times. It’s only rational to highlight this matter as a global crisis immediately.

I am confident, a new light of awareness will brighten our world, the moment the UN includes Sexual Violence on its official list of global issues alongside climate change, gender equality, migration, etc. and to ensure sexual violence is correctly perceived as a threat against any human, alert nations, and encourage victims of all genders to speak up and file complaints.

When combating sexual violence is prioritised by deeming it gender-neutral, certain governments may finally understand why biased laws like “marry your rapist” are embarrassingly irrational and a total injustice against females.

While officially uniting the world against sexual violence may catalyze change by altering geographical and gender-biased perceptions, it’s still not enough to tackle perpetrators who deliberately commit sex crimes. 
And hence, I plead more victims to speak up and report so that the world can devise ways to completely contain this ancient disease once and for all.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)