Gang rape is a heinous crime. Many victims never fully recover; some are damaged for life. For the 23-year-old Indian woman who suffered unimaginable horrors during an hour-long gang rape Dec. 16 in New Delhi, India, the struggle is over. She died of severe organ failure resulting from grotesque, unforgiving injuries on Dec. 29.
The following day her body was cremated according to Hindu custom. Today an entire country mourns a nameless woman who at long last symbolizes the plight of all Indian women — but for how long?
The incident has galvanized a society that has demeaned women for centuries. Even now, as India earns kudos for reinventing itself as a haven of modernization that affords genuine and equal opportunity to its citizens, antiquated mindsets lurk on every street.
There are between 40,000 to 100,000 rape cases pending nationwide. Activists blame the continuing nightmare on low conviction rates for rapists. In 2010, just over a quarter of alleged perpetrators were convicted. Cases often drag on for years, paralyzed by insufficient resources and attention.
Why? “Men’s patriarchal mentality toward women has to change,” says one lawyer.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a 12-year-old girl wrote a message in black crayon to the woman who was gang raped Dec. 16: “You are lucky. Many people pray for you.” However, prayers hardly help, after the fact, the women who are raped and assaulted daily.
Laws must change. Attitudes must change. Hearts must change. Similar to America’s call for a ban on assault weapons following the Sandy Hook massacre, the massacre committed against one Indian woman has released a whirlwind of outrage. But unless outrage becomes action, it is quickly replaced by the status quo.
They are calling the latest victim “Nirbhaya,” or Fearless One. She has been elevated to a martyr. But the society she was born into and ultimately contributed to her death is a powerful nemesis. Female fetuses are routinely aborted in India, where, as a consequence, there are some 15 million more men than women. This does not bode well for women who are reduced to a rapidly shrinking and victimized minority. (China, take note.)
Things are getting worse for women in India. Until substantial laws replace unethical, all-too-predictable outcomes, rapes and beatings will continue unabated and out out control. Not to mention, lesser forms of harassment are so pervasive as to be expected. Something as simple as a bus ride or a walk on one’s street, in broad daylight, becomes a gauntlet for women as young as pre-teens.
Nothing is slower to recognize its own failings than the human heart. Until we take a vocal stand on what’s happening in India, we are part of the problem. Silence condones evil, wherever it exists.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News