The Law Cannot Prevent Rape

The law pretends to be many things, including being good enough for all those who are required to submit to it. Those who make laws would like us to think of them as the complete solution to public problems. They’d like us to believe that we, the people, can’t come up with any useful solutions ourselves. But we must be wiser. We must understand what the law can never do. It can never guarantee protection from rape.

Rapes happen because both men and the law are bad. If any one of the two were good, they wouldn’t happen. Since they’re happening, let’s first begin by blaming both men and the law. Next, since we can’t do anything about men’s bad, let’s make the law so good that no rapes happen. This is how we’re supposed to think about rape in India, and I think it’s stupid.

The generalization that men are bad is too obviously wrong for me to address it. The other generalization, that the law is bad, is right. But however good it may get, the law can’t prevent rape. Since this is not widely understood, and since this lack of understanding actually works as a reason for rape, let me focus on the role of law in rape.

First of all, I’m not talking about the law being bad in this or that location, or even this or that time. I’m talking about the law being bad in all space-time settings. This is because every criminal, in this case a rapist, is always above the law before it catches up. Every rape is proof that the law was powerless in preventing it.

I’m not denying that the fear of law can prevent rapes, but the crux of the matter is that we’re talking in the language of probability and statistics here. We can only move towards a reduced number of occurrences of rape using the law, but no woman, including you if you are one, is guaranteed protection from rape by the law. All the law guarantees is punishment for the rapist after the rape has occurred.

Therefore, it’s unintelligent to completely rely on the law to prevent rape. In the olden days, people weren’t stupid enough to do that. They had their own methods outside of the law. Today, however, this stupidity of relying entirely on the law not only seems to have come to stay, but has also become globalized and acquired an honor and legitimacy of its own.

What were those methods over and above the law? They varied from culture to culture, place to place, and time to time, but in principle they were all forms of women refraining from kindling men’s sexual instincts in public. Our ancestors understood, apparently, that even in the presence of the law, it helps prevent rape if male sexual instincts aren’t publicly kindled by women.

I’m not talking about a particular woman protecting herself by her not kindling male sexual instincts publicly, but all women protecting themselves as a whole by none of them kindling them publicly. I have to say this for the benefit of those who are programmed to conclude that I’m ‘blaming the victim’ here. I’m blaming the stupidity of relying exclusively on the law to prevent rape, not anything else.

But today, this imprudent public kindling of male sexual instincts is being described as women’s freedom, notwithstanding the fact that any definition of women’s freedom cannot take away men’s freedom to enjoy sexual and mental health (which are affected by such kindling). People take women’s ‘freedom to kindle’ from one corner of the globe, which has its own culture, system of law, and male kindle-ability thresholds, and apply it to their corner of the globe.

If and when rape occurs, they blame the local men as a whole for being too kindle-able and the local law for being too insufficient or inefficient or both. When men elsewhere aren’t kindled by x amount of kindling, why should they be kindled here? Even if they’re kindled, why shouldn’t our law prevent rape? That is, why isn’t the law catching up with increasing ‘freedom to kindle’? These are the questions they ask, and it’s doubly stupid because they understand neither the local conditions and the local males, nor the fundamental shortcomings of law.

The law pretends to be many things, including being good enough for all those who are required to submit to it. Those who make laws would like us to think of them as the complete solution to public problems. They’d like us to believe that we, the people, can’t come up with any useful solutions ourselves. But we must be wiser. We must understand what the law can never do. It can never guarantee protection from rape.

Therefore, it is prudent to look for other forms of protection, too. The one of our ancestors, tried and tested, isn’t bad at all. We need not go back thousands of years and replicate that environment today, but we can at least begin by appreciating the need to stop kindling male carnal desires in public. How to stop it is something each small community, however defined, will have to decide for itself. We shouldn’t pretend, like our legislators and their laws, to know everything about the men and women of every community.