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Punishment of assailants

Most societies consider rape to be a grave offense, and punish it accordingly. Punishment for rape in most countries today is imprisonment, but until the late twentieth century, some states of the U.S., for instance, could apply the death penalty in cases of aggravated rape indicating the severity with which the crime was viewed. Castration is sometimes a punishment for rape and, controversially, some U.S. jurisdictions allow shorter sentences for sex criminals who agree to voluntary chemical castration.

Prison sentences for rape are not uniform. A study made by the U.S. Department of Justice of prison releases in 1992, involving about 80 percent of the prison population, found that the average sentence for convicted rapists was 11.8 years, while the actual time served was 5.4 years. This follows the typical pattern for violent crimes in the US, where those convicted typically serve no more than half of their sentence [1].

Between 2002 and 2003, more than one in ten convicted rapists in Victoria, Australia, served a wholly suspended sentence, and the average total effective sentence for rape was seven years [2].

Punishment of victims

See also: Honor killing

While the practice is condemned as barbaric by many present-day societies, some societies punish the victims of rape as well as the perpetrators. According to such cultures, being raped dishonors the victim and, in many cases, the victim's family. In some cultures rape victims are sometimes killed to restore honor to the family's name.

In the Shakespeare drama Titus Andronicus, Titus Andronicus kills his raped, maimed daughter in what he believes to be a mercy killing.

Rape and cultural views

Certain cultures have historically promoted a system of honor, dishonor and shame, which was applied with particular strictness to females. A victim of rape would be considered to have lost her honorable reputation and place in society, a loss of honor which entailed shame on the woman's family group as well. In early ancient Rome, ancient China, and other cultures, a pressure has existed which has led women to commit suicide after becoming victims of rape. The iconic Roman instance is that of Lucretia. Likewise, suicide of female rape victims for reasons of shame is also historically documented in Chinese and Japanese culture [3]. The "logic" of the loss of honor was largely an extension of the ingrained view of women as commodities for men to consume: once the packaging was forcefully opened by another man, the goods had been tainted for the next.*Other views would indicate that issues pertaining to paternity may have been more of an issue than damaged goods. The implication belying the practice is also that women did not biologically lust and thus would not/could not choose to have a sexual experience of her own accord, thus providing a justification for women as bartered products.

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Rape as punishment

Though modern societies claim to recognize the practice as barbaric, rape itself is sometimes used as a form of punishment. The victim of the rape is commonly a female relative of the person targeted for retaliation. In June 2002, a Pakistani woman named Mukhtaran Bibi was gang-raped by a vigilante mob after her brother was accused of rape himself. The Pakistani government, along with local religious officials, condemned this action and sentenced the rapists to death. In another case which took place in India ten years prior, Bhanwari Devi, an activist against child marriage in her Rajasthani village, was gang-raped by five upper-caste village men in retaliation for her interference with local child marriages.

In some dictatorships, rape is, or was, used as a method to retaliate against, or to intimidate their political enemies. There are numerous allegations that this took place under the former regime of Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. In the Abu Ghraib prison, US soldiers were using similar sexual intimidation and the threat of rape as a means of psychological torture to frighten their mostly male and Muslim prisoners. After the media exposed this in its coverage of the Abu Gharib Scandal, the US government tried several junior personnel involved.

See also

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