In legal terms, rape is copulation with a non-consenting female partner. Here we have one point on which the notion of equality between the sexes will never be able to smooth over the basic differences between men and women.

If a man complains of being raped by a woman, people will laugh in his face. If he insists and tries to take his case to trial, he will have to settle for a lesser charge like sequestration or illegal restraint. And in any case, this is a most improbable scenario, since most men are more likely to complain that women would never think of raping them!

The sentences imposed for rape vary enormously, depending on the age of the victim, the social role of the perpetrator, the circumstances, the severity of the bodily harm caused, the prejudices of the judge, etc.

It is perfectly right for rape to be severely punished. But the punishment should not be focused on the sex act as such; what should be punished is coercion, violence, interference with individual freedom. Nobody has the right to force anyone to do anything against their will.

There are fringe cases that the courts have difficulty dealing with: a woman raped by her husband or a prostitute raped by an uninvited customer. The courts tend to demand proof that the victim was not more or less willing.

The victim may also have to show that her dress and behaviour did not constitute an invitation to rape, or at least a mitigating circumstance for the rapist. A girl wearing a mini-skirt, no bra and a plunging neckline, hitching on a country roadside at two in the morning, will find it difficult to make police or courts take her seriously.

There are no statistics on the number of rapes actually committed annually. The number reported to the police is growing every year, however, probably because of the increasingly active movement of women’s self-help organizations.

In most cases rape is preceded by armed threats or violence, in order to overcome the victim’s resistance.


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