Rape -- A World Issue

"Legitimate rape" doesn't get a woman pregnant. These are not the ignorant words of extremists halfway around the world who subjugate women, and ban them from being literate or venturing out of their homes unless they are covered up from head to toe and escorted by a male relative. These inflammatory extremist views came from a United States congressman who openly diminishes women.

Republican Congressman Todd Akin was defending his staunch anti-abortion platform on Aug. 19, 2012 at a local television station. When he was asked about his opposition to abortion even when a pregnancy was a result of rape, the Congressman answered by suggesting that victims of "legitimate rape" cannot get pregnant because a woman's body prevents such a pregnancy by shutting itself down.

The sexual brutalization of a woman's body, carried out forcibly under the threat of physical violence against her, is called rape. And when a man forces a woman to have sexual intercourse with him against her will, he is committing a crime. Rape is a horrific crime and can never be associated with the word "legitimate." Hence, the use of the term "legitimate rape" is utterly bizarre and morally reprehensible. It is a grave and injurious insult to mothers and daughters everywhere.

The congressman's concept perhaps takes its roots in medieval mentality. Although women were generally suppressed and considered inferior and did not have basic equality, society had evolved to a point, and afforded women some legal rights. In a case of rape, a woman had the right to press charges, but she did so reluctantly because of a fundamentally flawed clause that permitted judges to throw out the case. If a woman who was raped got pregnant as a result of that rape, her case was considered unfounded. The reason for this injustice was because it was believed that conception could only occur if a woman was sexually satisfied during intercourse. Thus, if she were to become pregnant, the logical conclusion was that no rape had occurred. In spite of the violent intrusion of her body against her will, she had no recourse and could not charge a man with the crime of rape.

Throughout history, such violence against women has been justified by those men who have perpetrated these crimes and also by those men who have sat in judgment of these criminals. This statement by Congressman Todd Akin conjures up archaic and disgusting animated images of the caveman grabbing a woman by her hair, threatening her with his club if she resists and dragging her off, kicking and screaming to his cave to have his way with her. At the same time, these comments minimize the brutality against women and dismiss the severity of the crime.

Rape is a world issue and must be dealt as such. Soldiers still use rape as a terrorizing weapon during wartime. Women are physically weaker and therefore easier to assault. Soldiers who rape in order to demoralize a woman and terrorize their families have deeper issues and surely get some demented pleasure from subjugating those who cannot fight them on equal footing. It is pretty much like the sadistic act of repeatedly punching out a prisoner who has been shackled and cannot punch back.

For too long, society has enabled men to brutalize women. It is not just during wartime that men prey on women's physical weakness to demoralize them, but we also find that anti-women mentality is pervasive in all walks of life. It is particularly disheartening to see it among elected officials whose job it is to protect the rights of everyone -- which includes the rights of women. Rape is a brutal and demoralizing crime against women, and such statements as "legitimate rape" go to show that there is still a lot of work to be done to change attitudes toward mothers, sisters and daughters, right here in America.

All too often, women are blamed for these crimes against them and attempts are made to justify the criminal actions of men because a woman is said to have brought it upon herself by dressing provocatively. Or, a woman is accused of being a tease and therefore she was "asking for it." One of the most insulting reasons that men have leveled against women is that when a woman says "no," she actually means "yes."

American women will no doubt rise to the occasion and defend their rights, as they have done over the years to overcome many obstacles to their progress. With education and hard work, American women have liberated themselves and have become socially, economically and politically independent. As daughters, they have stood on the shoulders of their mothers and grandmothers and have successfully empowerment themselves. They have travelled a long, hard road and worked way too hard to go back and let this one slide, not only for their sake but for the sake of women all over the world.