Can a woman have rights?

A few days ago, I received an e-mail that said “I think she just got him all excited with the red trench”.

At the time, the sender and I were in the middle of discussing the case of a woman who was stalked relentlessly for years. This had consequences for the woman’s enjoyment of her privacy, her health and her life in general.

The e-mail essentially said the following. “The fact that she was a woman provoked the stalker into violating her rights.”

It comes within an inch of stating that the fact that the victim possesses a vagina constitutes consent in male-on-female rape cases.

Said e-mail contains an interesting point of view, however.

Can women have equal (human) rights if they are not seen as equally human as men? Does a woman have the same rights as a man if she is not seen as an equal? Can someone purposefully violate a woman’s human rights if he honestly believes she is not equally human?

It feels contradictory to expect someone to grant any woman equal human rights if he genuinely believes women are not equally human.

Can the fact that the victim is a woman – has a red trench, as my American e-mailer put it – constitute consent in cases of male-on-female rape?

Rape is a violent crime, the infliction of bodily harm akin to being shot or stabbed, with also similar psychological consequences.

Are there ever any questions about consent in stabbings and shootings?

Does seeing gender as consent when the rape victim is a woman constitute a human rights violation? Also if judge and jury genuinely believe that women are lesser human beings?

Would it be another human rights violation to keep them from having that belief? Should judges and juries be allowed to believe – and exercise the belief – that women are lesser human beings?

Is someone’s belief that all women are lesser human beings sufficient excuse for that person to violate any woman’s rights?

If you find yourself inclining to agree with the idea that it is okay to act from a belief that women are lesser human beings, keep in mind that the law must be just. Balanced.

This means that it would also have to be okay in the eyes of the law for any woman to violate a man’s rights provided she genuinely believes that men are lesser human beings, hence have lesser – and/or fewer – rights.

This would also mean that it would be okay in the eyes of the law for any person of color to violate a white person’s rights if the person of color genuinely believes white persons are lesser human beings if the reverse is seen as okay too, in the eyes of the law. Because if the belief that someone is a lesser human being is an accepted defense with regard to gender, the law has to see it as an acceptable defense with regard to skin color as well.

How about fat people? Disabled people? Poor people? Homeless people? Rich people? People with freckles? People who wear white trainers? Bald people? Blond people? Comedians? Politicians? People with diamond rings?

Where does it stop? Where does it begin?

It’s actually surprisingly simple. When what you are doing is harming the other person, you are violating that person’s rights.

(You can extend this into sports activities and the medical realm surprisingly easily, and even into sm. And phone hacking.)

Because the only remaining questions are those of scale and degree, and of intent.

It is not possible for people to live yet avoid hurting other persons all of the time. But it is possible for people to live without exercising an intent to harm other persons.

There is no question that shooting someone harms that person. A shooting can be intentional or accidental, which may or may not be easy to determine, depending on the case and the evidence.

Once this has been dealt with, all that remains are questions of scale and degree. A shooting can leave someone paralyzed from the neck down, but it can also merely cause a scrape.

Now the discussion turns back to the same question.

Is shooting a woman a lesser crime than shooting a man?

Is it more excusable to paralyze a woman from the neck down than to paralyze a man from the neck down?

Is it more excusable to shoot a man who is wearing a charcoal-grey coat than it is to shoot a man who is wearing a slate-grey coat?