Can We Be Fearless? Gang Rape in India Inspires Action, but Challenges Persist

This story was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

I traveled home to India over Christmas to spend time with family—a time that should be filled with cheer. Yet this trip has been overshadowed by the terrible, horrific gang rape of a young Indian woman.

At first, I could not get myself to write about it. The details are just too revolting. And as more information emerges and fills the pages of the newspapers here day in and day out, I have felt sick. It would be easy to be disheartened and pessimistic. Here's a young woman brutally violated and beaten by six men, left on the road unaided, passed by people who did not offer help, who ultimately lost her battle to survive. 

Not only is her story heartbreaking, but one feels crushed that we, as a worldwide community, have been working on improving the rights of girls and women for so long—yet these kinds of atrocities continue. Not only is her story heartbreaking, but one feels crushed that we, as a worldwide community, have been working on improving the rights of girls and women for so long—yet these kinds of atrocities continue.

However, the fact that this gang rape is raising huge attention in India, and around the world, is important to note. In many ways, it's a sea change.

Both women and men—yes, men!—are standing up and saying, "This is unacceptable."

Their protests are reminiscent of the 19th century when a few brave men led the fight against sati (the practice of burning a woman on her husband's funeral pyre), against child marriage, and for girls' education and in support of widow remarriage. That was a time when it would have been nearly impossible for women to make such demands without significant risks.

It's inspiring to see women standing strong so publicly today. And the fact that many more men from all walks of life are standing up openly is also a significant sign of progress. A well-known Indian actor whose screen image revolves around his manifestation of machismo said, "I feel ashamed to be a man today."

People are protesting in the streets, taking action through media, including social media, to demand justice and attention not just for this case, but for all women who continue to face sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and sexual violence. That spirit must be encouraged.

But there's a long way to go.

The sad truth is that we are nowhere close to where we need to be on ending all forms of violence against women. Not only are there cases like these—brutal and public—there are also more devious means of harassment and bullying. Violence against women is getting more and more sophisticated and insidious. It's verbal, it's sexual, it's physical, and it's manifested in a variety of ways.

We know sexual violence is a pervasive issue, not just in India, but in countries around the world. Just look at the discussion happening in the United States right now about Steubenville, Ohio and the young girl whose sexual assault was documented via Twitter and Facebook. Society cannot say it only happens once in a while and only in some parts of the world.

Sadly, this is happening everywhere.

So what can we do?

We need to be talking not just about how we punish these actions, but about how we prevent this from happening. We must talk about changes in cultural norms, in India and around the world. We need to be talking not just about how we punish these actions, but about how we prevent this from happening. We must talk about changes in cultural norms, in India and around the world. We must talk about increasing respect for women with no tie to what time they travel, who they are with, what clothes they wear, whether they've been drinking, what their sexual history is.

Sexual harassment in any form, at any point in time, under any circumstances is unacceptable. Period. That should be the norm.

I hope that the tragedy of the young woman's death in India, whom many are calling Nirbhaya, "the fearless one," will not be in vain. But rather, inspire fearlessness for all of us—women and men—to take action.

Fearlessness to say "this has happened to me" and to speak out when one sees it happening. To hold perpetrators, communities, and leaders accountable. To stop defining masculinity through violence. And fearlessness to end violence against women for good.

Country: India
Focus Area: Advocacy

Purnima Mane

Purnima Mane is Pathfinder's President and Chief Executive Officer. She oversees more than 1,000 staff around the world, an annual budget exceeding $100 million, and sexual and reproductive health programs in more than 20 developing countries.

Leave a Comment

* Change

Comments

including social media, to demand justice and attention not just for this case, but for all women who continue to face sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and sexual violence. That spirit must be encouraged. rebelmouse
rebelmouse September 1, 2014
Happy to see your blog as it is just what I’ve looking for Hurricane Shutters Palm Beach Gardens and excited to read all the posts. I am looking forward to another great article from you.
ali August 31, 2014
but for all women who continue to face sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and sexual violence. That spirit must be encouraged. girlfriend system christian h. system review
girlfriend system christian h. system review August 31, 2014
I've been searching for facts about this subject matter for years and yours is the best I have found so far. truth about cellulite review
Departments of StateGucci August 27, 2014
there are also more devious means of harassment and bullying. Violence against women is getting more and more sophisticated and insidious. It's verbal, it's sexual, it's physical, and it's manifested in a variety of ways. Rebelmouse
Rebelmouse August 27, 2014
To stop defining masculinity through violence. And fearlessness to end violence against women for good. euromillions
euromillions August 26, 2014
getting more and more sophisticated and insidious. It's verbal, it's sexual, it's physical, and it's manifested in a variety of ways. Chicago Escort l Toronto Escort
alex August 25, 2014
To hold perpetrators, communities, and leaders accountable. To stop defining masculinity through violence. And fearlessness to end violence against women for good Camarillo janitorial service
Camarillo janitorial service August 24, 2014
Violence against women is getting more and more sophisticated and insidious. It's verbal, it's sexual, it's physical, and it's manifested in a variety of ways. DC Escorts
DC Escorts August 23, 2014
in India and around the world. We must talk about increasing respect for women with no tie to what time they travel, who they are with, what clothes they wear, whether they've been drinking, what their sexual history is. SCHMUCK
SCHMUCK August 23, 2014
it happening. To hold perpetrators, communities, and leaders accountable. To stop defining masculinity through violence. And fearlessness to end violence against women for good. review and program preview
review and program preview August 23, 2014
That was a time when it would have been nearly impossible for women to make such demands without significant risks. rebelmouse
rebelmouse August 22, 2014
You have to use a bicycle pump. Thank You Amazon for cheating me. The Braun is easily louder than the clipper (I ran them both to check), and probably louder than the Norelco and the Panasonic running at the same time. The high action Bourne Trilogy belongs in everyone's film library, in my opinion. Diabetes Worse, if you persist in looking outward instead of accepting your guilt, you deserve to suffer. This printer is still pretty new to me, as in I haven't had to deal with buying and replacing ink yet but so far I'm very pleased with my printer. Feels good and the action is very smooth. This Canon hood fits perfectly for the Canon lens. Really, all fans of classic American literature should watch this attempt to capture the essence of Truman Capote without the effect of resultant caricature. If you watch the videos enough times, you can learn a little faster. Chronic Diabetes Arccfn. Free Meal Planner For Type 2 Diabetes More info
Name August 20, 2014
A mind blowing article is provided here. And it is written with great skill and the words directly explain the thought of author and it is nice to know the information provided around the Earth and really it is great topic of interest.best epilator for women
best epilator for women August 19, 2014
I was about to say something on this topic. But now i can see that everything on this topic is very amazing and mind blowing, so i have nothing to say here. I am just going through all the topics and being appreciated. Thanks for sharing.myworkwear
myworkwear August 19, 2014
A well-known Indian actor whose screen image revolves around his manifestation of machismo said, "I feel ashamed to be a man today. job bank
job bank August 18, 2014
We prerequisite rap about metamorphoses in cultural medians, in India besides through the universe. We prerequisite chatter about increasing worship for women beside no link to what span they voyage.http://www.venusfactorreview.us
http://www.venusfactorreview.us August 17, 2014
It's inspiring to look women footing solid so publicly today. Besides the actuality that numerous extra men from sum strolls of animation are status up openly is similarly a crucial emblem of march.www.bestonlinejobsindia.com
www.bestonlinejobsindia.com August 17, 2014
I just found out that the use of statistics to make you know how many visas were used. It definitely is a great time-saver. Flipkart Coupons
Flipkart August 16, 2014
time they travel, who they are with, what clothes they wear, whether they've been drinking, what their sexual history is. continue to next site
continue to next site August 16, 2014
Scroll to top