Trigger and content warning for rape and sexual assault.
According to The United States Department of Justice, rape is defined as “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Section 375 of The Indian Penal Code, on the other hand, states that “A man is said to commit “rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:
- Against her will.
- Without her consent.
- With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.
- With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
- With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.
- With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age. Explanation. —Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape.”
The Cho Doo-Soon Case
A rapist in South Korea can plead for a lesser sentence if they were drunk and out of their senses during the heinous crime they committed. Cho Doo-Soon pleaded for the same after having raped and physically abused a child as young as eight under the influence of alcohol. The reason why this case is so important to look at is because it is a reflection of how society treats the victim versus how it treats the abuser, given that the latter was a 57-year-old with an 8-year-old daughter of his own. According to a report by Medium, “The intoxicated Cho Doo-Soon gagged [the young girl] with his hand. He then bashed and choked the girl until she fainted. He raped her vaginally, anally, and through her ears. After, he tried to strangle her.”
The 8-year-old child was left with a hole in her stomach and a colostomy bag attached to her because of how badly her rectum, large intestine and genitals were damaged. The investigation, almost like all other investigations of sexual assault, was traumatising for her, given that the people in charge forced her to sit on a chair despite her injuries, made her testify in the court and interrogated her for hours. On the other hand, Cho Doo-Soon insisted he did not remember anything because of how intoxicated he was and that he would never rape a child; following which he was sentenced for 12 years in prison. When he was finally released, activists and civilians raised multiple concerns regarding his return to public spaces. Eventually the National Assembly unanimously passed a law — dubbed the ‘Cho Doo-soon prevention law’ — that mandates “sex offenders’ public information, including their address, be released publicly after their release, and prohibits them from coming into the vicinity of places like kindergartens.”
The absurd South Korean law that will leave you shocked!
The Cho Doo-Soon case illustrates the sexism that prevails in South Korea and puts women in the perpetual risk of not getting justice against sexual assault. The permanent damage done to the victim’s body in this case was categorised as third-degree disabilities, and there is no way to measure the severity of psychological and emotional damage faced by her. When Cho Doo-Soon was released, the victim’s family relocated in order to ensure that the young girl does not have to relive the traumatic experience time and again. But why was Cho only imprisoned for 12 years for a crime as heinous and gut-wrenching as this one? According to a medical doctor, Ei jin Shin, “Medically speaking, what Cho did was a murder itself. After he raped her, Cho left the cold water running as the unconscious Na-Yeong was left to bleed on the bathroom floor. That means that he wanted her to die. An adult knows that when you leave a profusely bleeding child on a floor with cold water running, the child is bound to die. This case should’ve been handled as a failed premeditated murder attempt.”
However, the South Korean law acknowledges the influence of alcohol in someone’s crime as a legal principle, further making it impossible for women, and in this case just a young child, to get justice. It’s practically impossible for me to comprehend why someone would do something so inhumane in the first place but making it difficult to get justice against a crime so explicitly proven is beyond my imagination and conscience. The South Korean criminal code 10:2, Sim Sin Mi Yak, reduces imprisonment for people with mental impairments; and one of the pillars of this law, Joo Chi Gam Hyung, asserts that substance abuse impairs a person’s mental state, therefore enabling criminals and making the country unsafe for the citizens.
Why discuss this case at all?
Let’s go back to the question that we started from: is there any hope for sexual assault survivors? If you’re looking for an answer in this article, you will be disappointed and let me tell you why. As per the records published in a study done under Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Public Health, the rate of crimes related to rape have significantly increased from 11.6 in 2001 to 19.8 in 2018 per 100,000 women and girls. In seventeen years alone, the demographic of the nation changed completely and so did the way any woman feels around unknown men. 70.7% of increase was recorded after the gang-rape and murder case in Delhi in 2012. While 44.3% of offenders were close known people, 43.1% were other known people. Only 9.6% of these cases completed trials and 73% were acquitted. These statistics may sound shocking to so many of us, but I can assure you that as a woman, it only terrifies me to know that every single day, one of my kind is subjected to indescribable crimes by the virtue of being a woman alone and that’s something that deeply infuriates me. Is there any hope for the sexual assault survivors? What are we doing to ensure that lesser and lesser people have to go through something so scary?