Rapist said that coming from Afghanistan meant he didn’t understand what ‘consent’ was.

This is why rapists (and the society) need to hear that lack of consent is rape, no matter what the victim was drinking or wearing, no matter where she was, how many sexual partners she has, no matter what her age or life style. Many rapists have no idea that they are committing a serious crime, many understand that the society and tradition/culture is on their side.

Afghan refugee who said raping woman was part of ‘cultural differences’ is jailed for 14 years.

(By Richard Shears)

An Afghan man who fled from the Taliban to begin a new life in Australia will spend the next 14 years behind bars after a judge rejected his claim that cultural differences had led to him raping a woman.

Esmatullah Sharifi, 30, was told by Judge Mark Dean in Melbourne that his background as a traumatised Muslim refugee was no excuse for the rape of a drunken and vulnerable teenager.

The judge noted that a psychologist had told the Victoria County Court in Melbourne that Sharifi, who arrived in Australia in 2001, had an ‘unclear concept of what constitutes consent in sexual relationships’.

Rejecting that argument, the judge said Sharifi’s background and flight from the Taliban was not an excuse for violence, telling the Afghan: ‘You well knew the victim was not consenting to the act of sexual penetration you performed.’

… he was … charged with raping the 18-year-old who he had found alone, intoxicated and sitting on the pavement near a nightclub after she had had a disagreement with her friends.

Sharifi, the judge said, had driven from his home that night in December looking for a victim.

…A psychological report submitted to the court described the Afghan as “inexperienced in forming relationships with women”.’ Read more: [link]

***
Here’s another example of how sexual crimes can and should be dealt with. Please read this post by Celestial Rays.
I am about to tell you all a true story, the kind that should be on the news, not because something turned sad or ugly, but because a system functioned the way it’s supposed to, so that the places where such a well-functioning system does not exist, take a lesson and make changes. I am tired of being updated on how the world is going from bad to worse, I want to know more of such incidents where such a bad world was fought, even defeated. [click to read]
I hope to hear of such stories in India too.

53 thoughts on “Rapist said that coming from Afghanistan meant he didn’t understand what ‘consent’ was.

  1. Jeez that defence makes me sick… because of how believable it is. There are SOOOO many people who still think that a short skirt on a woman is consent, a drink in a woman’s hand is consent, a lack of no is consent. It’s what you get when society conditions you to think all women are just walking around in a default state of “YES, RANDOM MAN, HAVE SEX WITH ME” instead of assuming that all women are in a default state of “NO” until they say yes.

    Even anti-rape campaigns focus on telling people that “No means no” instead of telling them that “only yes means yes”.

    Yet another aspect of rape culture.

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  2. Call it professional cynicism, but I’m completely with the judge who rejected the argument that this happened because he was “inexperienced in forming relationships with women”.

    No matter how backward, uneducated, feudal and inexperienced you are, rape is rape. While I cannot argue against the fact that rapists may not understand the seriousness of their crime, I also find it very hard to believe that there are people who cannot distinguish consensual from non-consensual sex at all.

    How is it even possible for any person in full possession of their faculties to construe the behavior of a struggling, protesting person as consent? It may happen that the victim did not protest because she was intoxicated. But surely, even the dumbest person in the world knows that it’s not okay to have sex with a random woman on the street who isn’t even properly awake!

    I’d really love to know what this guy’s definition of consent is.

    If screaming for help at the top of your lungs is consent, what ISN’T consent? Isn’t that unambiguous enough for any sane person, as well as most chimpanzees? What does a woman have to do to express non-consent? Dress in a burqa and do the hula?

    What a disgusting human being!

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    • “How is it even possible for any person in full possession of their faculties to construe the behavior of a struggling, protesting person as consent?”
      He didn’t say he construed the behaviour as a consent, he said he didn’t know what consent was. Having interacted with a lot of South Asians, Arabs and Central Asians for the last few years, the man’s plea is not such unbelievable. There ARE a lot of men (and women) in these cultures who don’t understand what consent means, since they believe sex is something ‘done to a woman’. An Indian from the Hindi belt actually thought the idea of a woman having a sexual drive revolting, an aberration against the ‘parampara’. These people are not default rapists, but culturally conditioned ones.

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      • AI,

        From a purely legalistic point of view, his plea makes sense if and only if it is supplemented with the claim that due to an unclear idea of consent, he construed non-consent as consent.

        Otherwise, it’s a bit like claiming that you were overspeeding because you were unaware of the concept of a speed limit.

        That’s no defense at all.

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        • Fair enough. However we are not in a courtroom discussing his guilt (he IS a bonafide rapist) but in a blog discussing the ethics and morality of his intentions.

          From a sociological AND psychological perspective, that someone doesn’t understand the concept of consent is not beyond possibility. While he might have committed a crime against the law and a crime against an individual; it might not be a crime of conscience, in which case he might not be as ‘sick’ as one believes he is. However for obvious reasons, persecuting him is perfectly reasonable, since absolving him of his (legal) crime could set a precedence for people to use ignorance as a plea for innocence.

          For purely legal point, if I were in Saudi Arabia, my atheism would have been a capital offence. Does that mean, if I were in Saudi Arabia, you would consider me a sick man who deserves to die?

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        • Actually, my comment WAS about criminal guilt. It was framed entirely as a qualifier to the judge’s decision, which I completely agreed with. Anyway.

          From a sociological AND psychological perspective, that someone doesn’t understand the concept of consent is not beyond possibility

          “Doesn’t understand the concept of consent” is a very vague phrase, which covers a lot of bases. To what extent did he not understand?

          As I said in my comment, I think it’s probable that he did not understand the seriousness of his crime, perhaps considering it a relatively minor offense.

          However I do consider it beyond the realm of possibility, or at least reasonable probability, that he did not know he was committing a crime at all.

          His actions are rather clear indicators that it was, in fact, a crime of conscience.
          From the article:

          …[Sharifi] had driven from his home that night in December looking for a victim.

          He sat down beside the teenager, began talking to her and offered to drive her to a hotel where her friends had moved on to.
          But when he drove off in a different direction, the young woman became concerned and texted her friends – until Sharifi took her phone and drove to a dark street.
          The teenager cried and asked if he planned to kill her. He replied by putting his hand around her neck and forcing her to remove her clothes before raping her.

          Hardly the actions of an innocent man who did not think he was doing anything wrong!

          In my opinion, the ‘cultural difference’ plea is the merest blind, a truly pathetic excuse for a grievous assault on an individual’s person. It is also my opinion that his actions are easily bad enough to earn him the epithet of “disgusting”.

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        • “In my opinion, the ‘cultural difference’ plea is the merest blind, a truly pathetic excuse for a grievous assault on an individual’s person.”
          Yes, but it doesn’t mean people stop using this plea, because like it or not, it does have some basis to it (however remote).

          Sometime back, there was a case of an Indian who drove his homosexual flatmate to suicide after filming his sexual acts and putting it up on the internet. The Indian in question didn’t think he was committing a crime. There have also been cases of Indians soliciting sex from underage minors, because these well-educated Indians weren’t aware of the concept of Age of Consent.

          And since I am not a lawyer but someone with a humanitarian background, I’d like to see such crimes prevented by educating immigrants about cultural differences, including the sexual aspects of it, even if such discussions are considered shameful and taboo in whatever culture they come from. In India, police often harass couples on the ground that ‘premarital sex is illegal in India’. A friend, who was a recently recruited officer in the IPS had the same misconception till I bothered him to find any clause in the IPC where it is deemed illegal or a criminal offence.

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        • Oh, I’m all for education.

          The intense prudishness of most Indian cultures (*cough* North India *cough*), combined with socially-sanctioned male supremacist attitudes, absolutely encourages things like sexual assault and harassment.

          There seems to be a pervasive belief that a single woman who does things that are not in line with a rigid code of behavior (things like drinking, going to pubs and so forth) is fair game for anyone.
          I’ve known Indians and Pakistanis living in liberal countries (the UK, Canada, Sweden) who completely agreed with the notion that women who do not stick to their culturally-ordained role somehow bring harassment upon themselves.

          Needless to say, this is a pretty dangerous thing to be teaching their kids.

          I’m aware of the police harassment. I’ve also heard that it can be hard to get a shared apartment with your partner in India if you’re not married.

          It all comes down to the Victorian-style prudishness. Cops and landlords need the education as much as anyone else. And although we expect more from people whose business it is to enforce the law, the fact remains that these people really don’t know much better.

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        • “I’ve also heard that it can be hard to get a shared apartment with your partner in India if you’re not married.”
          Bingo. Check my last post in my blog. I had a lot of difficulties with this clause while looking for flats in Delhi. I ended up paying a large part of my salary for a flat in a very ‘upmarket’ locality where people don’t mind.

          Make it the second last post. I publish a draft, before I go for my pre-flight briefings.

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  3. Read the post on celestial rays blog. Such a ray of hope in a world which is filled with disgusting people as the one you mentioned. Maybe IHM, you can make posting positive stories a regular feature…like once every week or once every 2 weeks. True stories where the law was used the way it is supposed to be used, or stories of women who found the courage to walk out of abusive/bad marriages etc. These days there is such short of positive stories, that reading such true accounts here will also showcase that good stuff also happens🙂

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      • Yes, Remember IHM, I told you that the same thing. It is important to do that.. Trust me positive stories are bigger inspirations ! While -ve ones keeps us in touch with the truth of our times, the positive ones will help us see light through it !

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      • IHM, you can use the story of baby Afreen’s mother. She tried her damnedest to protect her baby and fought for her till the end.

        Many thousands of women have probably suffered a similar fate in silence and the world has been none the wiser. She’s a hero for me.

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  4. Unrelated to post – but really wish you did not highlight with ‘bold’. It is rather irritating while reading a post.

    It is better to highlight stuff with blockquote.

    Form a design perspective – people posts via email, readers and on various different screens form tablets to laptops…. It is better to keep things simple.

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  5. His culture, or at least the country he grew up in, doesn’t really consider women human beings at all, but what about his HUMAN culture, and the fundamental understanding that someone is disagreeing/uncomfortable/unwilling to do something, to whatever degree? That is a universal thought, and not something culture specific at all.

    Another rubbish excuse from a disgusting excuse for a human being. If only castration were a legal method of punishment for rapists worldwide.

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  6. The only ‘cultural’ difference is that where he comes from, the victim is to blame for what happened to her. If she was at the wrong place, she “asked for it”. The thought that he might be the one condemned probably didn’t even occur to him. India’s just like that. Its disgusting.

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  7. IHM, “cultural difference” is the same as “provokating dressing” in Indian society. It’s a lame excuse which people cook up when they are well aware that they have committed a crime. There is a very simple test for such individuals. Ask them to imagine their wife, mother or sister in such an act. Ask them if they find it OK if the same parameters of “cultural difference” and “provokating dressing” is applied to them? If it is OK to let the rapists go scot free? They will probably froth at the mouth and throw abuses at you.

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    • “This is how it is done in our side” is a commonly used excuse in India too – culture is like a magic word (bad!) associated with ‘hurt sentiments”😦 I saw another news video where an Afghan refugee mother had tied with rope and beaten her teenage daughter for talking to boys in America and later claimed it was a done thing in their culture.

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  8. I somehow believe that culture is used here as an excuse instead of it being a genuine reason. People feel it is OK to beat up youngsters, vandalise shops, enforce dress codes all in the name of culture. In reality though, culture is merely a trump card for causing terror and misusing power.

    If only more and more people saw through the BS like the judge…

    Thanks for linking me IHM🙂

    Like

  9. Hi,
    Great post. I hope the message spreads across to more and more people. You have a great blog and I like your writing. I would like to give you the award of ‘The versatile blogger’. To receive this award you have to link back and follow the simple rules.
    http://life-interpretations.blogspot.com/

    If you don’t believe in these awards, then you can ignore this. However I just want to let you know that I genuinely like your writing. We need more social writers like you.

    Congratulations and happy blogging.

    Like

  10. What an excuse! I have heard that lots of men coming from more ‘traditional’ societies, tend to believe that women in the West are ‘asking for it’, which is why they ‘dress like this’, ‘drink’ etc etc etc. So they can try whatever they want, because the dress, behaviour etc, is assumed to mean consent! Ridiculous, isn’t it?

    CR’s post makes so much sense! That should indeed be the way to go! A society where everybody is protected – no matter what their jobs are.

    Like

  11. ‘Cultural differences’ what the hell has that got to do with rape? I find the argument in favour of this criminal is a bloody joke. No matter where you live or come from, its rape until the women consents to ‘yes’ before any interaction.

    In my view, culture is being used here as a scapegoat to dampen down the intention of this rapist. No culture of society is naive in this space, and to give such argument of ‘Cultural differences’ simply makes it a total joke at the victim(s) expense.

    Like

  12. Well, here is a simple multi-cultural way for all these “poor, unknowing” guys who don’t know whether the woman is consenting or not: Ask her! A simple “Do you want to have sex with me?” should settle all “cultural misunderstandings”. Grrrr!

    Like

    • Well, you see Aurinia, that’s not actually true, because in my culture, no actually means yes and yes means yes too, and any combination of the above equals yes.

      As we would say in formal logic, the statement “she wants to have sex with me” is a tautology, a universal unconditioned truth. The truth value of that statement is always “true” and never “false”, regardless of input, because a woman out in the street with uncovered skin and without an armed contingent of bodyguards with machine guns is obviously asking for it. If she denies it, she is lying (or why would she be out on the street provoking all the men?), and if she says “yes”, she is obviously a promiscuous and immoral person, and her personal limits need not be respected at all.

      So there.

      /sarcasm.

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      • Admittedly, Praveen, I’m such a simpleton! I shouldn’t have assumed a woman’s answer carries any weight when it comes to her own sexuality. After all, the random guy on the street knows better what she wants/needs than the girl herself. But since he himself admitted he had no idea what “consent” means, I thought he might seriously ask for enlightenment, foolish girl that I am. How dare I lecture a well-meaning rapist…

        (Sarcasm too)

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    • An exceedingly stupid law, and probably unconstitutional.

      How can you hold the victim of a child marriage responsible for it? Is there any reasonably course of action that she could have taken, which would result in this situation NOT arising? Did she voluntarily, in full knowledge of her rights and duties, behave in a manner which violated the law?

      No, she did not.

      There is nothing she could have reasonably done to have prevented the situation she is in. A fourteen year old simply does not have the means to effectively stop such a chain of events.

      I do hope she gets justice too.

      Like

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