Op-Ed: Your Outrage Can Help End India’s Rape Crisis


It is 2013, and yet the status of women around the world remains critical. At every stage of life, females are still at risk in places like Afghanistan and India, both of which were named among the “world’s most dangerous countries in which to be born a woman.”

It is not just lack of medical care and outrageously high maternal mortality rates that account for the challenges that confront women; rape and persistent violence will stalk them throughout their often-short lives. In India, twice as many women die each day from “injuries” than from maternal mortality. That statistic alone is proof enough that, at least in India, women are still considered as worthless as yesterday’s bread.

As hideous as the numbers are, it is the gut-wrenching stories of the victims that may finally spur the citizens of India, and the citizens of the world, to action. In December, the savage rape and murder of a young college student on a bus in New Delhi was the catalyst for street riots and protests.

Change was promised. The crowds were placated.

Two days later, police found the bodies of the small girls, ravaged and beaten, at the bottom of a village well. Officials listed the cause of death as “accidental.”

Until this past Valentine’s Day, February 14, when three little girls, aged six, nine and 11, disappeared on the way home from school in Lakhni village in central India. Their frantic mother reported the missing children to the police who—according to the girls’ grandfather—failed to investigate.

Two days later, police found the bodies of the small girls, ravaged and beaten, at the bottom of a village well. Officials listed the cause of death as “accidental.”

Only after angry villagers rioted outside the police station, was a case of rape and murder finally registered.

And all of this begs the question—where is the outrage, and what can be done with that outrage?

The recent spate of horrific crimes against women has taken on a gruesome life of its own. In response, India’s government has promised change and more stringent laws, but it’s promised all of that before, and the result? Nothing of significance has changed for the women and girls of India. Laws are meaningless if there is no incentive to enforce them. In India, to judge by the continuing narrative of atrocities against women and girls, there is little incentive for politicians to keep their promises.

But here, in the U.S., we just might hold the key to that incentive. The U.S. government gives millions in aid—loans, and government grants—to India each year. That funding does not include the millions of dollars provided by private donors and NGOs. This is our money, taxes or donated dollars, and we have the power to insist that our politicians hold India accountable, and make our loans contingent on initiating meaningful change for the well-being of girls and women.

We can be the voice for so many who are lost in the world’s darkest shadows, the voice for those like the little girl in India who was recently photographed holding a roughly drawn placard that read simply ME OR WE? 

To that little girl, and to her sisters around the world, we have the responsibility and the resources to say: “Wherever you are, you are not alone. We will not abandon you. We will not forget you. The fight is not finished until every single one of you is safe.”

If think rape and murder part and parcel with the ordinary risks of childhood, pledge to empower women all over the world.

Can and should the United States use its wealth to help save women around the globe from sexual assault and murder? Talk it through in COMMENTS.

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• Congo Arrests Senior Army Commander Over Rapes

Roberty Gately, author of The Bracelethas served as a nurse and humanitarian aid worker in war zones ranging from Afghanistan to Africa, about which she wrote a series of articles for the BBC World News Online. She is also the author of the novel Lipstick in Afghanistan. RobertaGately.com | @RobertaGately