This post is a part of an ongoing series Things I Didn’t Know (But Should). For sixteen weeks, I’m featuring news articles from the developing world. The goal of my “experiment” is to build awareness and learn something. I’d very much like to see the world as Jesus sees it, with compassion and empathy I want to see myself as part of a larger community. I want to learn to pray for people in other parts of the world. I want to see Jesus increase the size of my heart. By sharing this experiment with you here at Momentary Delight, I also hope we can engage in a conversation and grow in understanding together.
When I started writing these weekly article reviews, there was an unspoken desire on my part to focus on the more uplifting stories, however, in talking about those things I should know about, I’ve come to realize how sometimes the things I should know about are not at all uplifting.
For this week I’m going to focus on another article from the Los Angeles Times. Mark Magnier writes about a sixteen year old girl who committed suicide after being raped in her small town in Northern India. In looking at this terrible story, Magnier points our attention to the status of girls in this part of the world.
Earlier this month, in the northern Indian state of Haryana, a sixteen year old girl committed suicide after being raped by two men in her town, while a police constable stood guard. Following her rape, unable to deal with her anguish, she doused herself with kerosene and lit herself on fire. In the days following her death, and angered by what led to this girls death, people in India have begun asking questions and have begun pushing back in the hopes of saving other girls from the same fate.
In this particular region of India, female infanticide is thought to be widespread. Magnier writes that only 830 girls compared to 1000 boys are born in the state of Haryana, in contrast to the national average of 914 girls to 1000 boys.
In the face of criticism, conservative forces have begun circling the wagons. One official went so far as to suggest that if they truly wanted to reduce the number of rapes, girls should marry at a younger age. While this is a ghastly remark, it also points to some broader cultural issues, since as Magnier points out, 40% of the world’s child marriages take place in India. He quotes Indira Jaising, a senior Supreme Court Lawyer and women’s right activist:
“The remarks (of the government officials) suggest it’s legitimate to have child marriages. . . It points to the idea that marriage justifies rape. Adult women may be able to resist rape in marriage, but what chance is there with a child?”
As the quote illustrates, the deck seems stacked against these young girls, who for their own “protection” are being pushed into child marriages.
Magnier also looks at some of the broader statistics on rape in India. While there were over 24,600 rapes in India in 2011, only 27% of those result in a criminal conviction. It’s widely felt that rape is vastly under-reported in India, because of the stigma attached to rape victims. Despite the weight of these numbers, the article quotes one government official who went so far as to outrageously claim that 90% of rape cases were consensual.
If there’s any positive to this rather gruesome picture, it’s that this horrific case has brought attention to a national problem in India.
Publicity over the crime and the controversial comments that followed may help sensitize people and change their attitudes, said Kumari of the Center for Social Research, although any fundamental shift in women’s status probably will take decades.
This last week, the world was also outraged when Malala, a fourteen year old girl in Pakistan, was shot and seriously wounded by the Taliban after advocating for the rights of girls to education. These kinds of stories are enough to bring a national and international firestorm of attention on the status of girls around the world, and yet I cannot wonder why it takes these kinds of stories to make us take notice?
In the Genesis account, when Cain kills his brother Abel, he tries to go on as if nothing has happened. When God asks about his brother, Cain famously replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
It’s a kind of open question for us.
In response to Cain, God answers, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”
In these cases, the blood of these young girls cries out to us. I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to say such a thing. How can I possibly “not care”, and yet I genuinely wonder what it means for me to care? It’s something I’d like to consider.