A glo­bal upri­sing against ra­pe case in­jus­ti­ces

La Jornada (Canada) - - ENGLISH SECTION -

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple mar­ched in Spain in April, pro­tes­ting for th­ree days over a court’s fai­lu­re to con­vict fi­ve men of the gang ra­pe of an 18-year-old wo­man du­ring the Pam­plo­na bull-run­ning festival in 2016. The men had of­fe­red to walk the tee­na­ger to her car but ins­tead they took her to the lobby of a nearby buil­ding, at­tac­ked her, then sto­le her pho­ne. She was found crying on a bench.

Vi­deos of the as­sault shot by the ac­cu­sed we­re used in court as evi­den­ce that the vic­tim - who sta­yed still and clo­sed her eyes - was con­sen­ting. The court de­creed that the­re had been no vio­len­ce or in­ti­mi­da­tion and the­re­fo­re con­vic­ted the men of the les­ser char­ge of se­xual abu­se. By this lo­gic, a vic­tim can’t be ra­ped un­less she screams and fights back. Yet overw­hel­ming evi­den­ce tells us that the ma­jo­rity of ra­pe vic­tims do not do this: they free­ze. Pro­tes­ters chan­ted “This justice is bulls­hit!” af­ter the ver­dict was read out.

The Spa­nish de­mons­tra­tions came on the heels of fiery ra­llies in Ire­land fo­llo­wing the ac­quit­tal of two rugby pla­yers on all char­ges of the ra­pe and se­xual as­sault of a 19-year-old Bel­fast stu­dent. The wo­man’s un­der­wear had been pas­sed around the cour­troom. She was on the stand for eight days, whi­le the men, by com­pa­ri­son, tes­ti­fied for a half-day each. As the of­fi­cial sta­te­ment of the Du­blin Ra­pe Cri­sis Cen­tre em- pha­si­zed, whi­le the men we­re re­pre­sen­ted by ski­lled, ex­pe­rien­ced Queen’s coun­sel, the young wo­man was un­re­pre­sen­ted.

The men are not guilty but the treat­ment of the com­plai­nant high­ligh­ted struc­tu­ral de­fi­cien­cies in the le­gal sys­tem. Wit­hin hours of the ver­dict in la­te March, #Ibe­lie­veher was the top-tren­ding hash­tag in Ire­land. In the wa­ke of the trial, Ire­land’s mi­nis­ter for justice is re­vie­wing the le­gal pro­tec­tions of­fe­red to se­xual as­sault com­plai­nants.

In­dian ac­ti­vists have al­so been on the march. A trial be­gan on April 28 of se­ven Hin­du men, in­clu­ding a re­ti­red government of­fi­cial and two ser­ving police of­fi­cers, and one boy ac­cu­sed of the ra­pe and mur­der of an eight-year-old Mus­lim girl, Asi­fa Bano, in a town in Kash­mir in Ja­nuary. In­ves­ti­ga­tors say that the child was drug­ged, held cap­ti­ve and ra­ped for days. When police tried to re­gis­ter the char­ge at the court, they we­re gree­ted by a Hin­du na­tio­na­list mob tr­ying to pre­vent them.

The­re is ex­tra­or­di­nary energy in the­se mo­ve­ments, energy roo­ted in the know­led­ge that so­met­hing is deeply wrong with le­gal and po­li­ti­cal sys­tems in which it is the ac­cu­ser and not the ac­cu­sed on trial; in which wo­men can be bla­med for not phy­si­cally figh­ting off men; in which po­wer­ful men can ra­pe with im­pu­nity; in which se­xual vio­len­ce

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