Application of Islam to fight against Sexual Offense in the light of the Routine Activity Approach -Rahimul Islam


The present world is giving more prominence to personal appetite and freedom than any other era in the history of human civilization. People are getting addicted to the aristocratic, luxurious and comfortable way of life. With the advancement of technology, new demands are constantly emerging. And the point is that people are moving far away from their ancient agrarian society to meet society prescribed so-called needs. In most of the developed societies back then, men were the rulers of the family, society, or state; especially in the financial system. Women were usually the mainstay in home management. The man was responsible for the safety of other members of his family, women, and children. In that society, the conservatism of women was respected by most of the societies. There was a touch of caution in their movements and conduct so that definitions of sexual offenses and harassment existed in a fixed and short-range.

Due to the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent increase in employment, man, as well as women, began to come out of their conservatism. This is largely due to the urgency of the need and some due to the easy availability of work and reduction in physical labor. The Islamic lands also gradually came under the control of the imperialist powers and as a result, this wave hit the women’s society covered by the restrictions.

As women’s access to the workplace increases to meet the set goals of the capitalist lifestyle, women begin to break out of their boundaries. The tide of this wave is nowhere near as far as the North America to conservative Middle East and the alleys of Asia. As a result, various sexual offenses including sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and rape by men have increased in geometric Form. In many cases, loopholes are found in the law or the corrupt administration does not provide Proper assistance to the judiciary. Even in the political arena, a certain section of society is regularly involved in these activities. There is no way to get out of this without social reform in a Huge process.

We can find the solution in the eternal way of life of Islam. Islam has imposed several prohibitions on the conduct and movement of men and women towards each other in personal, social, state, and in the workplace. In a Muslim-majority country like Bangladesh, where most of the people consider Islam as a lifestyle of personal and social practice, violence against women is rampant. Sexual harassment by men is constantly on the rise. There are many innovative outlines from different walks of life to prevent this, but none can make a significant contribution. Meanwhile, a section of the society considers Muslim women not to follow the dress code of Islam as one of the reasons. Opposite parties again do not consider it as the minimum reason. According to them, it is not the dress or the veil, but the criminal mentality of the oppressor that is responsible. There is always remains a storm of debate about it from the tea shop in the neighborhood to the TV talk show. The solution does not come to nothing, the Islamists stick to their solution as a rule to be followed, and its opponents want to put their mouths on a different solution. At the end of the day, policies are divided by a dividing line. The solution of Islam is no longer accepted in the opposite society due to a lack of adequate reasoning or understanding.

This article discusses how the Islamic rules for the movement of men and women can be effective or not at all in the light of a groundbreaking theory of criminology. This theory explains the causes of a crime and the ways to overcome it from its specific position. It will be discussed here to determine the cause of sex offenses and possible solutions. Its originators have named this theory as Routine Activity.

Routine Activity theory:

This theory was first proposed by Marcus Felson and Lawrence E. Cohen, two social researchers and criminologists. It was originally used to describe the crime rate in the United States at the aftermath of World War II, from 1947 to 1974.
According to this theory, three criteria have been determined for a crime to be organized. Whenever these three conditions are created in space and time, a crime will be organized there and it is normal to happen. These three criteria are-
1. Motivated Offender
2. Suitable Target
3. Lack of Capable Guardian

1. Motivated offender
The condition for the offender to be motivated for the organization of the crime. The motive of the criminal organization must be in the mind of the criminal. Several factors act as influencers behind this objective creation. For example, think of a shopping mall or a shop where valuable things are lying unattended, of course, this opportunity will affect some people and they will be in the mood to grab these. This may be due to inadequate education on the ethics of those individuals, maybe due to the fulfillment of personal needs.
It works the same way with being attracted to women. The beauty of a woman, her open dress, her limbs, and her mannerisms will surely create interest in the mind of the opposite sex. That’s what human biology is all about. And in that case, the affected person is bound to be attracted if the lack of morality is fulfilled, the drug is in a state of taking, and the amount of possible punishment or loss is less than the desired benefit. The social rules and the obstacles of the law then become much less important to him. Islam says the same thing.
“Men are naturally tempted by the lure of women, children, treasures of gold and silver, horses of mark, cattle, and plantations.” (3:14; Holy Qur’an)
Even women are forbidden to speak in a soft and attractive tone instead of clear language which can attract and impress men.
“Wives of the prophet, you are not like other women. If you fear Allah, do not be too complaisant in your speech lest those with diseased hearts should covet you; but speak in a straightforward manner.” (33:32; Holy Qur’an)

Women are also asked to cover their physical beauty so that it does not act as an influencer.
However, authorized persons can observe it, such as – the husband.
“And tell the believing women to reduce (some) of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which (necessarily) appears thereof and to wrap (a portion of) their head covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers…” (24:31; Holy Qur’an)

2. Suitable Target
The second most influential factor behind the organization of crime is the appropriate target. A target will be appropriate only when it is much easier and more achievable than others to achieve it in space, time and person. Achievable targets are more likely to be affected if law enforcement agencies are weak. In this case, the value of the targeted person or property, physical constraints, visibility, opportunities to achieve, etc. carry special importance.

In the case of women, Islam wants to increase their security and keep bad people away from becoming targets of sexual harassment. That is why Islam has imposed a number of conditions on the movement and behavior of women. Their departure without special needs has been discouraged.
“And stay in your homes and do not go about displaying your allurements as in the former Time of Ignorance.” (33:33; Holy Qur’an)

In the light of the situation and need, the woman has been asked to adhere to a certain dress code when going out or at work. Which will reduce the chances of being attracted by men. And if anyone not attracted, targeting for the purpose of crime becomes unreasonable.
“Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested.” (33:59; Holy Qur’an)

3. Lack of Capable Guardian
The third criterion of this theory is the lack of proper guardianship, which severely affects the person intended to commit the crime. This is true for both of individuals and assets. Usually, if the guard is sufficient then no one is tempted to commit a crime. The fear of being caught works perfectly. In the case of the individual, it is more logical.
This criterion is equally effective in cases of violence against women and sexual offenses. When a woman lives in an environment where there is adequate security and eyewitness, the chances of her being harassed are greatly reduced. If there is someone suitable for his family and safety when it comes to traveling or traveling outside, then this possibility cannot be said to exist at all. And so does said in Islam. In the Islamic way of life, a woman is asked to travel with her guardian. In this case, any male of his closest family can be one of the companions. And in Islamic terminology, such people are called mahram.
“And tell the believing women to reduce (some) of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which (necessarily) appears thereof and to wrap (a portion of) their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers, their brother’s sons, their sister’s sons, their women, that which their right hand possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women.”(24:31; Holy Qur’an)
Since these special people are allowed to express their beauty, they have to travel a long distance with them. They are the ones who are entitled as guardians, they are better suited to prevent any kind of harassment.
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as sayings:
“It is not lawful for a woman believing in Allah and Hereafter to undertake journey extending over three days or more, except when she is in the company of her father, or her son, or her husband, or her brother, or any other Mahram.” (1340 no. of Sahih Muslim; Al-Hadith)

Interestingly, in 1999, two researchers, Elizabeth Ehrhard Mustaine and Richard Tewksbury, used this theory to explain sexual harassment of women. Many more research papers on it are also available in various journals.

In this article, theoretical analysis shows that women’s clothing is largely responsible for sexual harassment, even if not entirely. And the Islamic lifestyle can reduce organized sexual crime against women altogether if the law and administration become cooperative, enabling people to hold Islamic values. In a country like Bangladesh where most of the people believe in the Islamic way of life, it is more possible. The Islamic way of life has left these problems with proper solutions. Only need goodwill and proper education.

The author is a Student of the Department of Criminology and Police Science, University of Chittagong.