Rape or ‘NOT’ Rape: Analysis of (Six) Case Studies and Narrative of Victims

AuthorVibha Hetu
Published date01 October 2020
Date01 October 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Rape or ‘NOT’ Rape:
Analysis of (Six) Case
Studies and Narrative
of Victims
Vibha Hetu1
The article has focused on six case studies. It analysed different scenarios in
known offender rape cases, how the situation unfolded and led to serious con-
sequences. The criminal justice system reacted to polarizing the offenders and
victims, and thereby, creating greater dissension. The parents were deeply hurt
by their daughters’ decision to form a relationship with a boy without inform-
ing them thus showing distrust in them. The fear of being ostracized by society
and their norms persuaded them to take strict action against the boy in order
to protect their honour. To reclaim their honour, they even got their daughter
married to the rapist in one such case. Whether the daughter agreed or not is
out of the question. Are these matters of being unfaithful to parents and/or hurt
caused by their secret association with their boyfriend, or just a ‘false’ honour
to be protected by subduing their daughter and also using the law to fulfil their
ulterior motives; are questions to be delved into finding a solution to such com-
mon phenomenon.
Elopement, rape, honour, consent, victim
Sexual violence against women is deeply entrenched in the feudal, patriarchal
Indian society. Recent feminist research has emphasized the threat of violence
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
3(2) 237–261, 2020
2021 National Law
Universit y Delhi
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2516606921994033
1 Lok Nayak Jayprakash Narayan National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science (LNJNNICFS),
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India (GOI), Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Vibha Hetu, C-67, A.G. Colony, Post Aashiana Nagar, Patna 800025, India.
E-mail: vibhahetu@gmail.com
238 Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice 3(2)
confronting all women (Chakravarti, 2009; Volpp, 2000), demonstrating that such
violence often stems directly from women’s lower social status (Welchman &
Hossain, 2005). Perhaps the most significant facet of South Asian1 culture in this
context concerns ‘honour’ (izzat in Urdu). In ‘honour’-based societies, the man is
defined as the head of the family and the defender of its ‘honour’; the man is
expected to protect his family (including womenfolk, who are viewed as his
property) against any behaviour that might be seen as shameful or humiliating by
the community (Gill, 2009). Female family members are valued as symbols of
‘honour’. A family’s ‘honour’, and thus prestige, is achieved through the conduct,
actions and social performances of its women; consequently, family interests take
precedence over individual interests (Derne, 1994). Thus, there is a tendency to
commodify women as vessels of honour that men own and defend, so safeguarding
the izzat or honour of the family is viewed as a means of exercising social control
over women’s bodies and behaviour (Gill, 2009).
This gives rise to a variety of social norms concerning women’s sexuality and
sexual practices (e.g., a woman must remain a virgin until marriage, and then
must maintain fidelity to her husband). Female consent to the patriarchal norms of
religion, culture and class is strongly encouraged, and the degree to which each
woman conforms to the value systems embedded in these institutions determines
the way she is perceived by her marital and blood family (Ortner, 1978). In such
patriarchal societies, women are invested with immense negative power, since
any misbehaviour on their part can bring shame and dishonour to the male
members of an entire community or lineage (Kandiyoti, 1988). Thus, the notion
of ‘honour’, actually leads to their victimization and abuse rather than being a
celebration of women’s dignity and social importance.
Research shows women from South Asian communities, in particular, tend not
to disclose rape or sexual abuse because of three key explanatory factors. The first
factor suggests that the women tend to feel ‘betrayed’ by the male perpetrators of
these acts; often these men are well known to their victims as members of the
same community (Gupta, 2003; Siddique et al., 2008; Thiara, 2003; Uberoi,
1996). The second key factor is that these women often fear that they will not be
believed, especially since the criminal justice system does not usually prosecute
in cases where the only evidence is the victim’s testimony (Gill, 2008; Patel,
2008; Wilson, 2006). The third key finding suggests that some women do not
report sexual violence because they believe that the assault is not violent enough
to constitute rape (Gangoli, 2007; Haven, 2008; Rape Crisis, 2008).
Setting the Scene
The Aim and Scope
Although theoretical studies have made a significant contribution to understanding
rape within South Asian communities, issues regarding the individual experience
of female victims are largely undocumented (Ahmed et al., 2009; Dasgupta,
1996). The utility of interrogating single case studies in order to test sophisticated

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