By Hans Laven
The horrible case in India involving the rape and homicide of a 23yo female student has led to worldwide campaigns demanding greater protection for women. The student was tricked into boarding a bus that was actually being taken for a joy ride by a group of drunk men who then beat her with an iron bar, stripped her, gang raped her and threw her out of the moving vehicle naked on to the street then tried to run her over presumably to ensure her death. The woman died in hospital some days later from her injuries.
The violence committed by the offender(s) was despicable and unworthy of human status. Although the safety and costs of the death penalty are deeply problematic, personally I would have no moral objection to a death penalty for one or more of these offenders if proven beyond reasonable doubt to have led or participated actively in this violence. I’m sure most in the men’s movement will agree with protests by large groups of Indian women and men demanding that violence including sexual violence against women be properly investigated and prosecuted to the full force the law. I’m sure most here would agree also that Indian police and justice system deserve criticism and to be held accountable if they have been turning a blind eye to, victim-blaming, treating as unimportant, excusing or minimizing such violence.
One incredible aspect of this depraved episode though has been the apathy shown towards the female victim’s boyfriend. Many news articles completely failed to mention him at all or to report on his injuries or recovery. Media eventually reported more on him but only because he had recovered enough to make a statement about the events including criticism of how police responded when they found the pair. From occasional comments in media reports we learned that this man was also locked in the bus, beaten with the iron bar, stripped, thrown naked from the moving bus and targeted to be run over. He was knocked unconscious, then he regained consciousness at some stage and rescued the injured woman from being run over by the bus they had just been thrown from. He was forced to endure seeing or being aware of the physical and sexual violence towards his girlfriend and this will undoubtedly cause him post-traumatic stress disorder and lifelong psychological damage. But who cares? Nobody it seems has cared a damn about him.
The protestors and world media have shown appalling misandry by focusing only on the female victim of this violence and disregarding the male victim. Seriously violent crimes were committed by a group of drunk men against both a woman and a man. Some articles mentioned that the man had also been beaten but his victimhood and welfare were almost totally ignored. The exclusive focus of the response to this crime has been on women’s rights and wishes.
Such feminist myopia is more than simply a moral issue of fairness. The calls by many have been for responses unlikely to reduce violence whilst contravening important principles of justice, equality and social cohesion. Feminist-focused protestors and media have demanded special treatment of women complainants throughout the process of Indian law enforcement, automatic assumptions by police of the truth of their allegations, expansion of definitions of rape and sexual assault, ‘fast track’ justice for those accused of violence towards women, and much harsher punishments including the death penalty for such crimes against women specifically. Sound familiar? The Indian government now appears intent on introducing some of those measures. Many western countries including New Zealand have pursued similar approaches with little protective result for women but massive injustice towards accused men and a degradation of the status of men in general, associated with erosion of family, community cohesion and serious increases in antisocial behaviour and gang membership by boys and young men. Well, what do we expect? If we treat the male half of our population as undesirable, discriminate against men and show widespread disrespect for them while still exploiting them financially and physically, what have young men to aspire to in their society?
Laws in most countries already, quite appropriately, exist against sexual violence and usually provide for harsh punishments. If authorities are not applying those laws properly then that is what needs to be addressed. Encouraging reduced standards of justice, more gender inequality and increased state violence towards men can only be expected to result in violent attitudes. Ignoring, excusing or tolerating violence by women and towards men can only be expected to perpetuate a violent society. To reduce violence it will be necessary to encourage non-violence and respect towards all humans male and female, to show understanding and mercy regardless of gender, and to identify and address the real factors that increase the risk of violence. These are likely to include alcohol and amphetamine abuse, poor conflict-resolution skills, lifestyle stress, erosion of community, reduction in care and safety for mentally disordered people, sexual and relationship deprivation for males who are not alpha males, unfair family laws and loss of family. The ‘patriarchal power and control’ and ‘man bad, woman good’ models have misled us badly, causing western countries and now the rest of the world to misunderstand the causes of violence and to look towards false measures that ironically promote violent and uncaring attitudes.