The Human Impact

When is rape not considered rape?

I had always thought – naively as it turns out – that rape is when a person forces another person, either physically or by using threats, to have sex and/or when there’s an absence of a clear ‘yes’.

Apparently not.

According to the laws in some of Southeast Asia’s fast-developing nations, rape within a marriage isn’t rape. Or if you go by some of the decisions handed down by the courts, it’s not rape if there isn’t a physical struggle or the perpetrator is in his 60s.

Politicians and law enforcement officials raise doubts that a rape has occurred if the victim and the perpetrator know each other or if the female victim is behaving in an ‘unladylike’ way, for example getting drunk, staying out late or being overly friendly with members of the opposite sex.

I came across these laws, judgements and comments when I was researching a story on how difficult it is for female rape victims to get access to justice in Thailand.

I found rape-related laws that are discriminatory and weakly enforced and archaic societal attitudes about women, not just in Thailand but in other middle-income countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. What I didn’t find was a dedicated shelter for rape victims of all ages in Bangkok, a city of some 9 million people.

PHOTOBLOG: Women in India’s capital resort to self-defence after gang rape

Women in India’s capital Delhi are gearing up for self-defence little over a month after a 23-year-old student was raped on a private bus in the city and left dying on a highway.

The episode sparked public outrage in India, where many women say they cannot rely on the country’s often gender-insensitive and under-resourced police force to ensure their security.

Now, women are mostly scared of taking buses or rickshaws alone at night and have started booking cabs with female drivers, taking self-defence classes and stocking up on pepper sprays.

Acid attacks: the faceless women you can’t forget

Since I met her over a week ago, I have been unable to forget.

Every morning as I put on my lipstick and black eyeliner in front of the mirror, I am reminded of her face. Or lack of it.

Sonali Mukherjee, 27, is one of hundreds of women across the world who have lost their faces, and their will to survive, as a result of one of the most heinous crimes against women I have come across: Acid violence.

Nine years ago, three men broke into Sonali’s home in the east Indian city of Dhanbad as she slept, and threw concentrated acid over her face.

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