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Monday, 13 June 2011

Slutwalks don't have much to do with the crime of rape

In recent years, historians and human rights organisations have shown that rape is a major instrument of war, and perhaps always has been. It is in war conditions that most rapes occur. In the past century, it's connected to the fact that most wars are conducted against civilians or are civil wars, but soldiers in old-style wars between male fighting forces also found time to rape: that's what the old song "Three German Officers crossed the Rhine" is unashamedly about.

Stalin's armies raped tens of thousands German women as they entered eastern Germany in 1945, a fact which took quite a few years to find its way into the history books. Stalin knew and approved: the troops deserved some reward.

In the Congo and other parts of Africa, rape on an even larger scale has been central to the conflicts of recent years. Sometimes raped women are then murdered, sometimes not.

Women who get raped in wars are usually poor, poorly dressed, and they probably haven't had a bath for a week.

In countries at peace, women get raped by ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends and - the ones we most often read about - by strangers. Age is no protection: there are rapists who favour elderly women asleep in their beds. Dress seems irrelevant.

The Canadian policeman who linked rapes to provocative dress got it wrong. A provocatively dressed woman is very, very unlikely to get raped. The provocation may even be a deterrent since it expresses both sexual confidence and personal assertiveness. Rapists are not confident men, just violent ones.

Slutwalks are a great day out for exhibitionists and newspaper photographers, but don't have much to do with addressing the causes of the crime of rape.

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