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South Asia favours tough rape laws – but must also eliminate its cultures of sexual violence

BUY-SELL | HELP WANTED | MATRIMONIAL

In 2019, India witnessed a 6% increase in reported rapes. In 2020, Bangladesh recorded more than four rapes per day. In Pakistan, an average of 11 rapes are reported daily. As a consequence, these countries have come to exemplify the term “rape culture” – a context in which sexual violence is normalised by prevailing cultural norms about gender and sexuality.

At protests against sexual violence across the region, participants inevitably seem to wave signboards demanding, “Hang the rapists.” Governments too are sympathetic to such calls and lawmakers in South Asia are under pressure to appear tough on such crimes and come across as sensitive to the demands of their citizens.

In the last few months, there have been reports of the Bangladesh government approving measures to allow for the death penalty for rapists, Maharashtra proposing the death penalty for rape and Pakistan proposing a bill that mandates castration for perpetrators of rape. Citizens have lauded these moves.

However, these decisions, prompted by public outcry, have little to do with factual research about whether they will be effective. Experts say that these moves are misguided and will do very little to prevent rape.

Collectivist contexts

Hard measures for sexual violence fail to address the problem of rape being rooted in cultures that endorse and normalise sexual violence. Statistics show that…

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