a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew


Posted by Thomas Nephew on December 30th, 2012

That poor woman.

This has saddened the whole world. Today, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon released this statement, and bless him for it:

The Secretary-General expresses deep sorrow at the death of the 23-year old Delhi student who was gang-raped by six men in a moving bus in New Delhi on 16 December. He offers his sincerest condolences to her parents, family and friends, and utterly condemns this brutal crime. Violence against women must never be accepted, never excused, never tolerated. Every girl and woman has the right to be respected, valued and protected.The Secretary-General welcomes the efforts of the Government of India to take urgent action and calls for further steps and reforms to deter such crimes and bring perpetrators to justice. He also encourages the Government of India to strengthen critical services for rape victims. UN Women and other parts of the United Nations stand ready to support such reform efforts with technical expertise and other support as required.”

This, from a Wall Street Journal article, was heart-breaking:

A 12-year-old girl wrote a message to the deceased rape victim in black crayon: “You are lucky. Many people pray for you.” The girl said there were countless women in India who get raped and assaulted daily, but few get any attention. She said she wanted to grow up in a society that is safe for women.

I hate for 12 year olds to need to know and worry about such things, let alone be surprised that a victim is even noticed and remembered.  I hate for 14 year olds to, too; I need to talk with ours, she’s been following the story and is of course upset by it.  I don’t know what we’ll tell her exactly, I guess I’ll wait to see what she wants to ask and say.

In the last few years I’m more reluctant than I used to be to be judgmental about other countries’ shortcomings – we have quite a lot of our own.  But like the Secretary General suggests, I think it’s fair to guess that more rapes happen the more women are disrespected, not valued, considered lesser human beings; we can try to resist that everywhere.  Things may (well) be worse in India than they are here, but it’s not the only place where there’s violence against women, or inadequate pursuit of justice against their assailants; yesterday, NPR reported “Years Delayed, Detroit Starts Testing Rape Kits For Evidence.

UPDATE: Also, what many Indian women are saying is no different from what any of us anywhere can agree with.  Via The speech that explains India’s outrage over a gang rape—and how women are treated every day (S. Mitra Kalita ,,  here’s just part of what Kavita Krishnan, secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) had to say:

…I believe even if women walk out on the streets alone, even if it is late at night, why should justifications need to be provided for this, like ‘she has to work late hours’ or ‘she was coming home from a BPO job or a media job’? If she simply wants to go out at night, if she wants to go out and buy a cigarette or go for a walk on the road — is this a crime for women? We do not want to hear this defensive argument that women only leave their homes for work, poor things, what can they do, they are compelled to go out. We believe that regardless of whether she is indoors or outside, whether it is day or night, for whatever reason, however, she may be dressed — women have a right to freedom. And that freedom without fear is what we need to protect, to guard and respect.

I am saying this because I feel that the word ‘safety’ with regard to women has been used far too much — all us women know what this ‘safety’ refers to, we have heard our parents use it, we have heard our communities, our principals, our wardens use it. Women know what ‘safety’ refers to. It means – You behave yourself. You get back into the house. You don’t dress in a particular way. Do not live by your freedom, and this means that you are safe. A whole range of patriarchal laws and institutions tell us what to do in the guise of keeping us ‘safe’. We reject this entire notion. We don’t want it.

Read it all — but listen to her too, even if like me, you don’t speak Hindi. You can hear her meaning every word of it, you can feel her wrath and power.  Maddie, this is what you do, this is how you fight back.



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