Finland prides itself on always occupying the top ranks in gender equality comparisons – prides on having a female president and a former Prime Minister, prides on having been the first country in Europe to give women the right to vote. Certainly we are in the promised country for women? Well, there is a ‘but’. Even more than in women’s Euro, which is currently about 80 cents, the gender inequality is seen in crime rates, notably in rape statistics. In a survey from 2005 46 000 Finnish women report they had been raped during the past year. Many of them by their current life partner.
To do a comparison between different countries would be pointless because of the diverse political situations that prevail as well as due to the general attitudes regarding rape. It is clear that in countries where women’s rights are feeble fewer rapes are reported to the police, which is why the Nordic countries appear to be so high up on the lists. The figure is nevertheless too high, and only a fraction of the committed rapes actually reach the authorities’ knowledge (approximately 500 a year).
A recent sexual violence study from the U.S. reveals the horrifying situation there: every fifth woman reports having been raped in her lifetime. It is a symptom of a serious illness, the complete lack of respect towards the female body – and the whole gender.
According to the survey, 15 out of 16 rapists walk free. This is partly due to the low number of reported rapes, which in return tells its own story about the culture. Sex has become a universal human right, and if it is not freely available, as it in most TV shows is, it can be taken by force. Last year in France, a man was ordered to pay 10 000€ compensation for his wife for not having enough sex with her. Now the potential rapists have legal evidence that sex is their right, whether your head aches tonight or not. Of course the news coverage of this particular incident was vague enough not to reveal any actual numbers – was it once a year or once every decade, does not really matter, interpretations to be made freely.
Raping is not ordinary violence; the emotional damage it causes often exceeds that of the physical. It is rarely a random act of violence – most of the attackers are acquaintances or an intimate of the victim. In either case, whether the rapist is a stranger hiding in the bushes or the victim’s spouse, rape is always an act of domination, and the one being subordinated is rarely a man. In prisons the reality is different, but the principle is the same: the one being raped becomes the others’ ‘bitch’, and loses his masculinity.
Rape has been a tool of war since the early ages, and it is nowadays as powerful as ever. The war in Congo serves as the most recent and brutal example, but we don’t have to go back any more than 60 years before the issue comes unpleasantly close to us. Germany is full of fatherless people who were conceived by soldiers of the Allies, and after the Second World War many children were born in Russia with distinct Finnish features. The purpose is to crush the spine of the enemy by contaminating the women, and thus whole families.
Sex and violence appear to walk hand in hand conceptually as well. In a study by Deborah Cameron, which mapped nicknames for penis, it was discovered that the majority of the nicknames given by men referred to warriors or authority figures, beasts, or weaponry, such as The Hulk, King Kong, destroyer, or rifle. One of Cameron’s conclusions is that the results indicate men’s notion of the penis having uncontrollable ‘animal desires’, that ‘it has a life of its own’. As ridiculous as it sounds, the idea is supported by such high-status people as some court judges who perceive women’s choice of outfit as an extenuating circumstance in rape cases: the man sees flesh and loses all control; I came, I saw, I conquered! Considering that the majority of men are not rapists, it is them who should be more offended by this kind of statement.
The cure for the widespread disease – that of raping one’s own wife, girlfriend, or neighbour, is raising awareness of the extent of the phenomenon. The knowledge of not being alone is an immense help and an encouragement to come forward, and the more people step up, the more likely it is that the punishments become more severe. Perhaps it could be a central theme for our next president: “Finland takes lead in anti-rape programme”? Yet another thing in gender front for us Finns to be proud of.