The world needs a zero-tolerance policy on rape


I was deeply saddened to see the news headlines about Rehtaeh Parsons’ recent suicide. I ache for her teenage sufferings that made death more attractive than life and for her poor family, left behind and feeling sick about losing her. Even more, though, I feel rage at the thought that we live in a world where violence against women is commonplace. From faraway places like India, Congo, Afghanistan, and Syria to our own backyards in Canada and the United States, the bottom line is that women aren’t safe. Women and female children are being desecrated, abused, and tortured in sickening ways and, even though the headlines turn our stomachs and make us grieve, it just keeps happening.

Why is this pervasive, evil misogyny allowed to proliferate? How is it that young males think it’s appropriate to treat any woman in a less-than-respectful way and why do they keep getting away with it? Rape is one of the ugliest acts that a man can commit against a woman. It attacks the very essence of her female being and just because she possesses a vagina, she becomes a target. Rape destroys a woman’s soul, taking what’s meant to be a fulfilling act and turning it into torture. It demeans her, destroys any positive associations with sex for the rest of her life, and makes her feel worthless. And all for what? So a guy can create the illusion of power and pleasure for a few brief minutes at the cost of her lifelong happiness.

The front cover of the Toronto Star last weekend described a rape in Syria where the women were screaming, “God, all we have is you.” But I’m left wondering, where were the people? It’s time for governments and courts to take a stand against all forms of misogyny. Men who rape should be punished, shunned, castrated – whatever it takes to make them realize that this isn’t some kind of fun game they’re playing. Rape is a slower, perverse kind of soul-murder, so they should pay for it accordingly.

On an international level, our leaders need to stand up against countries whose policies on gender equality are lacking and protest using trade embargoes and boycotts in order to pressure countries to change and modernize. I’m tired of people excusing sub-standard treatment of women as, “Oh, it’s a cultural thing and that’s just how they do it over there.” Well, guess what: apartheid was also a ‘cultural thing’ that was once accepted as the norm in South Africa. How is black and white segregation any different than male and female segregation in many countries? It’s not. And when Mandela and his supporters stood up against apartheid, the world stood with them and demanded that the system fall. Many countries imposed economic sanctions and gradually, painfully slowly, the South African system disintegrated. (It’s far from perfect now, but at least it’s improved.) Now imagine if the West stood up to Saudi Arabia and demanded that its women be given equal rights to men before any more business deals are made? Somehow I doubt that would ever happen.

Back to Canada and this one tragic loss: I hope that Rehtaeh’s death is not in vain. Let’s not forget about her by next week, once the headlines have changed, but rather use her memory to drive us toward change, toward demanding equality and insisting that rape no longer be tolerated on any level in our society, whether it’s underage drunken frat boys to middle-aged child predators. Women need to be allowed to live safely and securely, without fearing the possible repercussions of attending a party, riding a bus, or walking down the street. We have just as much a right to live our lives on this planet in peace and assurance as men do, and there are enough threats out there that we don’t need to fear our own classmates, acquaintances, and neighbours. As for us mothers of sons, we have a big task ahead of us, to ensure that our sons are raised to be respectful and honest men. Anything less than that and we will have failed not only them, but also our own gender.


4 thoughts on “The world needs a zero-tolerance policy on rape

  1. Why is this pervasive, evil misogyny allowed to proliferate?

    Simple answer for a simple question. Because YOU support misandry. Misogyny and misandry are two sides of the same coin. If you support either, you support both. So lets look at the facts. Yes, it is sad girl died. How about Bob, Steve, Larry and Gary? Is Rehbas death worse than the four of them combined? I don’t think so. The suicide rate for men is four times that of women, but it is the women victims that make the news. It is women victims that you talk about. It is male perpetrators you talk about. YOU are trivializing and marginalizing the experience of rape victims because they are men. YOU are supporting misandry. YOU are supporting misogyny.

    Why is the evil of misogyny allowed to proliferate? Because YOU are supporting it by supporting misandry.

    1. Thanks for your comment. You’ve certainly provided some good food for thought. However, I do not think that, by condemning acts of sexual violence committed by men toward women, it’s fair to label me as a misandrist. I am acutely aware of the damage that man-hating “feminazis” can cause and it’s sad that feminism, that potentially empowering movement that has done so much to improve women’s quality of life in the last few decades, is so often associated with man-hating. Feminism is ideally about equality, about women fighting for the same rights as the ones men get automatically, and consequently improving the world for both genders. If the male suicide rate is truly 4x more than that of women, that’s appalling and it means that there are some major issues happening that aren’t getting addressed. Those suicides, however, are likely not caused by rape and other acts of sexual violence because women have a lot more trouble inflicting that sort of violence on a man than vice versa. Men are committing suicide for other reasons that are no less important than Rehtaeh’s reason for doing so, but different.

  2. (I left a comment yesterday, but it disappeared into the ether somehow…?)
    You are so right about feminism being about equality for all groups that suffer repression or abuse. I read something last week I thought was right on. The author was making a point that while some women (in the US) are concerned with “leaning in” to break through the glass ceiling, so many women suffering horribly in developing nations are struggling to rise up off the dirt floor. I don’t know what we can do to help, but at the very least, we should be paying attention.
    Very nicely written post, on a very difficult and important topic.

    1. Hm, I never saw that other comment, so it truly did disappear into the ether! (I do enjoy hearing your feedback very much, so rest assured I would not have deleted it.) I’ve also been hearing a lot about that glass ceiling, what with top business women like Marissa Meyer and Sherly Sondberg talking about how women need to act more like men in order to achieve that success they crave. You’ve raised a good point, though, that perhaps we get overly preoccupied with the West and forget that there are still millions of women out there who are denied the most basic of rights, things that make our Western feminist issues seem less critical by comparison. Awareness is always the first step toward change.

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