Dr. Javed Jamil for BeyondHeadlines
The New Year celebrations were postponed in many places throughout the country as India did not feel like celebrating in the wake of the gang rape of its “brave daughter” and her subsequent death. That the people felt enraged gives some hope that social vices would now start receiving much greater attention than they get till now. For last 20 years, I have been speaking and writing extensively on commercialization of human susceptibilities particularly alcohol, gambling and commercial sex. I have often felt frustrated why these issues do not jolt even those whose religious consciousness regards them “Prohibited”. I am piqued even more now because not even the mass rage against Delhi rape case attracted any debate on the real factors involved in sex related crimes. The whole issue has unfortunately been given a man-woman turn, as if it is only crimes against women that are on the rise and all other crimes have disappeared. Three factors that have been completely sidetracked are:
1. The failure of judicial system as a whole at the international level in controlling crimes;
2. The large scale commercialization of sex and its destructive effects; and
3. The relationship between rapes and alcohol/drugs.
We are living in a world where the more advanced and extensive the judicial system of a country is the more horrendous are its crime statistics. This is true of all the developed countries including US, Europe and Australia. In all the countries, Fear of God and Fear of Law have become too week to have any demeaning effect on crimes. Thanks to the rise of New World Order, the judicial system has not only been catering to the needs of the forces of globalization but has become a big money-spinner, which makes people engaged in the system rich without delivering what it is supposed to it. Despite their horrible failure, they have no dearth of people showering encomium on these systems. No wonder then that rapes are becoming increasingly common throughout the world; and Western countries including USA, France, UK and Australia occupy top ranks in the list of maximum rates of rapes. More than once a minute, 78 times an hour, 1,871 times a day, girls and women in America are raped with more than 90000 raped every year. India with its mixture of Westernise legal systems and fast wesrternising socio-economic system is also becoming increasingly criminal.
Sex has of course become the pivot on which the wheel of world economy revolves. The merchants want men and women together everywhere to keep the wheel rolling without caring much for their security. They are busy in publishing reports that prostitution and pornography in fact have a depressing effect on the incidence of rapes, as if prostitution and pornography are no crimes themselves. I have seen people arguing for hours to prove that eve teasing is a much bigger crime than rapes, prostitution and promiscuity. I don’t blame them because this is the kind of the ideological feedback they get from the media.
In this article however, I would like to focus more on the relationship between alcohol/drugs and all sex related problems including rapes.
It is widely known that alcohol increases the risks of unhealthy sexual behaviour. Studies of AIDS in other countries, such as Thailand, indicate that alcohol consumption influences many dimensions of sexual behaviour. One such study, which included students, soldiers, and clerks revealed that “heavy drinking increased the odds of having had sexual intercourse; increased the odds of having visited prostitutes; and decreased the odds of consistent condom use in sexual encounters with sex workers (VanLandingham and others, 1993).” Another report says, “The relationship between drinking and HIV risk behaviours, such as visiting commercial sex workers or having sex without condoms, is not one of simple causality. It has been argued that drinking behaviour co-occurs with other dangerous factors; such a risk-taking Includes beverages made from sugar cane alcohol and agaves, such as mescal and sotol. Aguardiente means “burning water” (Aledina-Mora, 1999).”
Here are some of the findings of reports on the relationship between rapes and alcohol:
- Alcohol use by the victim or the perpetrator is frequently associated with acquaintance rape.
- In one, study 26% of men who acknowledged committing sexual assault admitted that they were intoxicated at the time of the assault, and an additional 29% reported being mildly buzzed—55% were under the influence of alcohol.
- In the same study 21% of the college women who experienced sexual aggression on a date were intoxicated at the time of the assault, and an additional 32% reported being mildly buzzed—53% were under the influence of alcohol.
The effect of alcohol can also be seen in the cases of abuses. The National Incidence of Child Abuse and Neglect reported that “there is certainly a reason to suppose the number of cases of actual abuse might be rising, since child abuse could be expected to rise when drug and alcohol abuse were increasing and when broken homes were becoming more complex.”
The Effects of Alcohol on Men
A report sums up the effects of alcohol on men and women in terms of their sexual behavior:
“Men expect to feel more powerful, sexual and aggressive after drinking alcohol. Expectancies have power of their own, independent of any genuine physiological processes. When people expect a certain outcome, they tend to act in ways that enhance the likelihood that the outcome will occur. For example, if a man feels powerful and strong after drinking alcohol, then he is more likely to assert his viewpoints forcefully and to end up in a verbal or physical argument. Studies show that men who think they have been drinking alcohol (whether or not they really have) feel sexually aroused and are more responsive to erotic stimuli and rape scenarios.
“Many studies show that men are more likely than women to interpret a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues as evidence that a woman is interested in having sex with a man. For example, males were more likely than females to rate revealing clothing, secluded date locations such as his room or the beach, drinking alcohol, complimenting a date, and tickling a date as more indicative of a desire to have sexual intercourse.
“The tradition of female reluctance and male persistence makes it easy for men to ignore the woman’s “no” and force sex on a genuinely unwilling partner. Both the man and the woman might not view this situation as rape. But if sex occurred without verbal consent, or force was used to obtain sex against the woman’s will, then what happened is legally defined as rape.
“Alcohol consumption by men is likely to enhance the likelihood that misperception will occur and lead to sexual assault. For example, for some men going out on a date or going to a party includes an initial hypothesis that sex will occur. Drinking alcohol may cause men to interpret or reinterpret a woman’s behaviour as a sign of her desire to have sex with him-in a way that fits his initial hypothesis. And he will ignore what she is doing or saying that shows that she is not interested in sex. If a man starts out on a date thinking, “I’m going to have sex,” he is starting out with a hypothesis that doesn’t take the other person into account. It is a rape mentality.”
The Effects of Alcohol on Women
The same report also describes the effects of alcohol on women:
“Alcohol consumption may cause women to ignore or miss cues that suggest an assault is likely. It may keep a woman from realizing that her friendly behavior is being perceived as seduction. (Research studies have shown that men are inclined to misperceive a woman’s friendliness as a sign of sexual interest.) Drinking may keep a woman from noticing a man’s attempts to get her into an isolated location or his encouragement to drink even more. Alcohol consumption may also decrease the likelihood that women can successfully resist an assault, either verbally or physically.
“Men frequently feel justified in forcing sex on women who, they believe, have been leading them on or are being sexual teases. Legally sexual provocation, whether intentional or not, is not justification for rape; sex with someone unable to give consent (e.g. drunk) is also rape.
“There are many stereotypes about women who drink alcohol. One common belief is that women who drink alcohol are more sexually available than women who do not drink. The results of one study showed that a woman who had a few alcoholic drinks was viewed as more likely than a woman who drank only soft drinks to respond positively to a sexual advance, as more willing to be seduced, and as more likely to engage in sexual intercourse. Another study showed that men were more likely than women to assume that a woman who drank alcohol with her date was interested in having sex with him. Forty percent of the men who took part in this study felt that it was acceptable to force sex on a drunk date. In a different study 75 percent of a group of acknowledged date rapists said that they sometimes got women drunk in order to increase the likelihood of having sex with them. Many date rape victims report that their attacker fed them drinks for several hours before the attack.
“Women who were drunk when raped are often viewed by others as partially responsible for what happened. Interviews with a group of college students showed that the male attacker was held less responsible for the rape when he was intoxicated than he was when he was reported as being sober. In contrast, the female victim was held more responsible when she was intoxicated than when she was reported as being sober. Thus, in terms of how others will perceive their behaviour the costs of intoxication are higher for college women than for college men.”
Alcohol remains the most commonly used date rape drug, being readily available as well as legal, and is said to be used in the majority of sexual assaults. Many assailants use alcohol because their victims often willingly imbibe it, and can be encouraged to drink enough to lose inhibitions or consciousness. Sex with an unconscious victim is considered rape in most if not all jurisdictions, and some assailants have committed “rapes of convenience” whereby they have assaulted a victim after he or she had become unconscious from drinking too much.
However, in the typical Western style, the emphasis in all such writings has been not on curbing drinking habits but on insisting that drinking of women do not absolve the rapist of his crime. An article by Jaclyn Friedman (We News commentator) says:
“Blasting women with warnings about getting drunk in public does little to help them and sidesteps men’s responsibility for sexual assault, writes Jaclyn Friedman. She advocates three steps that could be more effective.
“(WOMENSENEWS)–In 1992, while I was an undergraduate, I was raped by a fellow student while we were both drunk. He was not a date. I didn’t even like him when we were sober. But we were at a party together, a party at which I tried too hard to “keep up” with my friends in the alcohol department and wound up far more drunk than I wanted to be. So I went back to my room. And he followed me. And then he raped me.
Looking back, I can imagine a number of social or institutional interventions which might have helped prevent this attack from happening. But none of them includes the approach that so many articles on this subject take, which is to “raise awareness” among young women that getting drunk in public puts them at greater risk of exploitation and sexual assault.
Why is this an impotent approach? For all the same reasons abstinence-only education does nothing to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (and may even contribute to it).
Very few people of any age or gender go out and drink enough to get drunk thinking it’s a responsible thing to do. However true it may be that it’s safer not to get drunk (approximately 70 percent of rapes among college students involve alcohol or drug use), it’s not like young women don’t already hear about the risks from parents, college administrations, the nightly news, or any of the 25 “CSI” or “Law and Order” clones on TV.”
While there is no reason why the act of a rapist should be condoned on account of the vulnerability of his victim due to any factor, including alcohol, there is no reason why a campaign against alcohol should not accompany the campaign against rape. It may be argued that in India’s case, it is mainly the rapists who are under the effect of alcohol; and women in most cases are not inebriated. But this gives even a greater reason why all the activists campaigning against rapes, particularly women, must wage a simultaneous war against alcohol and drugs.
In the final analysis, three importance elements have to be recognized in any drive against rapes:
1. In order to control rapes, rapes should be seen as one of the crimes. All serious crimes including murder and rapes are on the rise; and if the situation has to change we will have to adopt a different legal ideology which haunts the criminals and adequately punishes them. The old dictum that “Ten criminals can be freed but one innocent should not be hanged” is nothing but an excuse for saving the criminals. Instead of looking things in individual cases the net effect has to be ensured.
2. The commercialization of sex and nakedness has no place in a civilized society. There should be a concerted campaign against all its ramifications;
3. There should be a campaign against all the factors that lead to crimes including rapes; neglecting anyone will have disastrous consequences. Alcohol in particular needs urgent attention.
4. Moral Empowerment of society is required if civilized behavior is to be ensured.
Comprehensiveness is the key to any planning, and this is what is also required in dealing crimes including rapes.
(Dr. Javed Jamil is Executive Chairman, International Centre for Applied Islamics, and Director PEACE. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org)