A young medical student, future doctor who would have saved lives, was vandalized like a bombed church to the point where it’s questionable whether her survival would have been a mercy.
I understand the rage and deep despair of women in India. They have been living under a terrorist threat all their lives, and it does not come from without, but within. They walk the gauntlet every day, facing random crime and threat while those who should protect the public indulge in denial and victim blaming. They are expendable. The mistake of the six men who thought they could get away with murder was in not choosing their victim more wisely. They never expected that schoolgirls would be holding signs calling for their public hanging.
Every society has crime. What has women and men demonstrating in the streets of India is the intolerable injustice. For too long, oppression of women on the margins has been ignored. Now the depth of the suffering of women is the shame of all, and the people are calling for justice. That justice will not be satisfied by a show trial, but by real change. That justice will not be satisfied until a woman can believe that she is equal under the protection of the law.
It was about 30 years ago the first Take Back the Night march was organized in Providence, Rhode Island. It was not a triumphal march. It’s no fun to have to walk the streets of your own city, chanting ‘No More Rape’. The rule of law should be responsible for public safety. But rule of law was applied selectively and atrocious crimes were being committed without consequences.
I think that thirty years on, we are less complacent, but an individual has a better chance of justice, whether she or he is of high status or low.
A friend of mine, in our women’s spirituality group– okay, it was a coven– told me a story.
She had been active with a Zen Buddhist center, and was going through a rough time emotionally. She asked one of the monks for spiritual advice.
When they were alone together, and she was in a vulnerable state, he steered the counseling session into a sexual encounter.
She left confused, but soon recognized that this man had betrayed her trust and taken advantage. It took her about a year to get up the courage to do something about it.
She said she prayed to the Goddess Kali to keep her anger alive. To keep her from falling into niceness and premature forgiveness. To give her the angry courage to tell this man frankly how much he had harmed her.
She said that when she had finished telling him how his actions had affected her, he thanked her. She said he kept saying, “thank you.” all the time she was telling him the truth. Maybe she really did get through to him.
A beautiful and useful concept that was developed in South Africa is ‘Truth and Reconciliation’. Before reconciliation there must be truth. And that truth must be taken seriously by those in power to construct and enforce the law. We are in a new millennium, and we cannot afford to lose the best contributions of half the human race in order to appease ancient prejudice. That challenge goes out to all the world, to the daily life and struggle of every woman no matter where she lives. Like the Unitarians say–the worth and dignity of every human being.
Thanks to Summer Anne Burton for her photos of Indians demanding justice.
(Creds to this site, 10 Most Powerful Hindu Goddesses for the fierce aspect of Kali.)