It is likely that you’ve heard about the recent horrific gang-rape in Delhi that resulted in the death of the 23-year-old victim.
MADRE and our sister organizations have worked for decades to confront the global epidemic of sexual violence. We struggle to prevent violence, and we stand with survivors demanding justice.
But this young woman did not survive the attack by six men that was so brutal it destroyed her internal organs. She died in the hospital; the six men involved have been charged with murder. She lived long enough, however, to do something highly unusual: she told the police what happened to her. “In retrospect it wasn’t the brutality of the attack on the young woman that made her tragedy unusual; it was that an attack had, at last, elicited a response,” wrote Sonia Faleiro in The New York Times. The attack did indeed elicit a response.
A silent wave of protesters, carrying signs, walked through Delhi, including Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Thousands of women joined the march. The visual impact is overwhelming, astonishing. Their silence is a scream.
But women in India are raising their voices, too, being heard across continents, making demands and refusing to be ignored.
A woman who had lived in Delhi wrote a fiercely enraged piece on her experiences there:
I saw pictures of these young girls standing their ground getting beaten up, screaming in the cops’ faces. Learned pundits question why. What is the point of this protest anyway? What do they want? It’s a pity they can’t even see this basic point. They want to be treated as humans again. I read about the rape in Delhi and the anger in me has refused to go away. Memories of those years of harassment came flooding back. If you’re a woman in Delhi, you’ve been groped and violated five times a day since you were eight.
The steady thrum of whistles, catcalls, hisses, sexual innuendos and open threats continued. Packs of men dawdled on the street, and singing Hindi film songs, rich with double entendres, was how they communicated. To make their demands clear, they would thrust their pelvises at female passers-by.
If only it was just public spaces that were unsafe. In my office at a prominent newsmagazine, at the doctor’s office, even at a house party — I couldn’t escape the intimidation.
And two young women, like thousands of others, made their thoughts known today:
Galvanized by one young woman’s courage in speaking out, women in India are raising their voices in unison.
2013 is the year that women across the world can stand shoulder to shoulder, all of our movements together as one. Young women recovering from their exploitation as former child soldiers in Colombia; women and children in Haiti who survived sexual violence in the displacement camps in Haiti; women in Delhi and across India, demanding accountability for the rape culture that is killing their daughters, mothers, and sisters; women in the United States fighting to protect and expand access to reproductive health care; women in Nicaragua fighting for land rights for Indigenous Peoples.
The women in Delhi are not just speaking out – they are being heard. In 2013, let us raise our voices and support their demands; let us support one another’s needs and revolutions around the globe, trusting and investing in one another’s truths and futures, until the day we can all tell a different story of how we won the same fight.