The recent rape and resultant death of a young Indian woman received worldwide attention. There was outrage over the brutality of the case – and shock such a horrific act could take place on a public bus in one of India’s largest cities, New Delhi.
What’s come to our attention since then is, arguably, worse: a culture that effectively condones vicious violence against women – this in an ostensible democracy that has one of the world’s largest, most recently successful economies.
India is not alone in tolerating this plague. Levels of domestic violence are higher in other countries, including, for example, Columbia, Egypt, and Zambia. Moreover in a New York Times article titled, “Is Delhi So Different from Steubenville?”, Nicholas Kristof points out that Americans are hardly immune. (The reference is to an alleged rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, in which high school football players are accused of repeatedly raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl.) In fact, so far Congress has failed to renew the Violence against Women Act, a law first passed in 1994 which since has expired.
Still the numbers in India are staggering. Some two million women die annually, unnecessarily, for reasons ranging from female infanticide and infant neglect, to a high rate of death in childbirth, to domestic violence, to poor care of the elderly which affects women at a far higher rate than men. 25,000 to 100,000 women are killed each year – many by being burned alive – only over dowry disputes.
I’ve written about this issue before – in a blog titled “Enough is Enough.” But I’m moved to do so again because what I’ve learned since late December is altogether disgusting, depressing, degrading. What will it take to make violence against women as socially unacceptable, as politically egregious and outrageous as, say, slavery? The answer is not completely clear -but one thing we know for certain. The leadership class has failed to do what must be done. What this means is that for change to take place – real, meaningful, enduring change – followers will have to rise from their torpor and lead the charge. Step one is to wake up and see extreme violence against women for what it is – torture.