Leslee Urdwin has finished a movie about rape, Daughter of India. Jyoti Singh was a 23 year-old medical student in New Delhi, India who was attacked on a private bus and, after being brutalized by a group of young men, was murdered by them. One of the offenders died while in police custody; the juvenile the was remanded to the juvenile system, and two were given death sentences which were appealed but the verdict upheld in 2014. (Click)
Because Jyoti Singh was out in the early evening with a male friend who was neither her brother or her husband, the men justified their attack as punishment for her immodest conduct. Since her death, the laws against rape have been strengthened to protect women, but by no means have the hearts and minds of many Indian men been changed. Marital rape is still permitted, and as one defense attorney for the rapists admitted: “If my daughter disgraced herself in the manner Jyoti Singh did, I would have poured petrol on her and burned her alive.” (“Shining a spotlight on the world’s rape crisis,” by Sharon Cotliar, More, December 2015, pg. 53.)
If disrespect for women were isolated to India, I’d be alarmed but I’d still hope for women’s equality in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this disregard is global. As filmmaker Urdwin points out, one if four women is raped on U. S. college campuses every year. A rape occurs in Britain every 6 minutes. More than 400,000 women are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo each year and that is the tip of the iceberg. (Ibid pg. 53)
In the December issue of TowneandCountry, Eric Konisberg explores the well-publicized U. S. A. rape case against Owen Labrie, a high school senior at St. Paul’s, the elite private school for the children from wealthy families. Labrie is charged with assaulting a 15 year-old female fellow student. (“Annus Horriblilis,” TownandCountry, Dec 2015/Jan 2016, pgs 176-178, 252) Admitted to Harvard, the young man’s future looks uncertain, though the charges against him have been reduced. Final outcome of his sentence is on appeal. (Click) Whatever the court rules, one wonders about a school culture where giving a girl “the salute” is a rites of passage for a male and being nicknamed “Stinger,” is a source of masculine pride. (Ibid, pg. 252))
We need to educate our young differently. As filmmaker Urdwin notes, “We teach our children how to read, write and count. But nowhere are we teaching them how to respect and have empathy.” (More, pg. 53.)
While a moral education might rightly be the province of religion, given that most of these institutions are patriarchal, they have perpetuated the myth that women are inferior beings. I quote from an earlier blog (9/4/14) a point that bears repeating:… early Christian authors described females as being the gates of hell, creatures who should wear rags to acknowledge their shame, while St. John Chrysostom (347-407) thought woman were more harmful than any savage beast. In fact, the question of whether or not women were beasts or human was put to a vote in 584 during the council of Macon. The tally was 32 to 31 in favor of allowing women to remain human. (Man Made God by Barbara G. Walker, Stellar House publishing 2010, pg. 201) If the ballot had gone the other way, we females might be occupying corrals as beasts of the field.
Women do have staunch support from many men and we should be grateful for that. Men, after all, gave women the vote. But if women wish to be free and equal, they must demand rights for themselves and for women everywhere. The theme for the 2016 International Women’s Day observance is, “Let’s Make it Happen.” We can start by awakening the hearts and minds of our children and grandchildren.