(I"m talking about rape, tread carefully.)
When you look around at campaigns to end sexual assault how do you usually see it framed? As rape correct?
Now let's be clear. Rape is a horrible crime and any who commit it must be held responsible and I bet anyone reading this would agree (and if you don't then that's a whole nother conversation).
So what happens when something as terrible as rape is defined not by the actions taken but by the characteristics of the people involved?
Imagine for a moment if when a black person kills a white person its manslaughter and when a white person kills a black person its murder. And that's the way it is in the law books. No attention to motive, opportunity, past criminal acts or anything like that. Just as simple as when a black person kills a white person its manslaughter and when a white person kills a black person its murder based on nothing more than the races of the killer and the victim.
Oh sure you can say that manslaughter and murder are two different charges but are prosecuted and punished the same (does that sound familiar?) but then look at how awareness campaigns around the acts develop. Over time the vast majority of efforts, language, campaigns, studies, conversations, etc.... specifically say murder. Even the very law books are written to keep them separate so that you know black people manslaughter and white people murder.
That's kind of what's happening in New Zealand right now.
Recently a 36 year old woman had a child by an 11 year old boy. But by New Zealand law that woman cannot be charged with rape.
Like my example above where a black person can't be charged with murder because they are black the law is actually written in such a way that a woman cannot be charged with rape because she is a woman. When a woman commits the same actions (forced sex against another person) as a man, he is charged with rape and she is charged with sexual violation (mind you both carry the same maximum sentence of 20 years).
Now that sounds good on paper but if you look at most of the conversations, campaigns, discussions, studies, etc... that are done on this subject the crime is called rape. Personally I think we all have a hand in such a separation where while we acknowledge that sexual assault, sexual violation, and other variations are horrible the we keep the spot light on rape. Its a charged word now.
Okay so I guess it doesn't look so good on paper when someone is immune to being charged with rape by simply being a different gender.
Its a pretty big problem where when you do a gender swap on a crime (if a 36 year old man had sex with an 11 year old girl..) and it actually becomes a different crime.
Personally I think the law got written this way as way to make female rapists out to be "lesser" than male rapists. Technically by NZ law there is no such thing as a female rapist. Yes you have female sexual violators but that doesn't have the same ring (or stigma) to it. And I think we are fully aware of it too.
You see on the large scale people still do not like the idea that women can commit horrible acts against other people. No they sleep better at night thinking that such things are the exclusive territory of men.
That's a part of those old gender roles we hear so much about. The same ones that are lamented because of how things like climbing the corporate ladder, being an athlete, or being a super hero are considered the exclusive territory of men.
If you believe that being a woman doesn't make one less of a hero, then you have to acknowledge that it doesn't make one less of a villain either.
And I also don't think its going to do much justice for the young boy she raped to be told that he wasn't raped but sexually violated all because the person that did it was a woman.
Let's hope that this leads to some really examination of the laws in NZ and eventually to some change.