A Gang Rape Ignites Protests Over India's Rape Culture
I was in church this morning with my parents and the pastor began to preach about society’s expectations and disapproval toward unwed mothers. Of course, he was talking about the Virgin Mary, who likely wasn’t a virgin -- but she was an unwed mother, and she was the scrutiny of her society. There are Biblical verses about Joseph considering breaking their betrothal because she was pregnant out of wedlock. Mary had to endure people writing her off as a woman who was suitable for marriage. She could have faced several punishments, including stoning to death. It was by the Grace of God (literally – God told Joseph to stand up for his wife-to-be, as she was carrying the Messiah) that Mary was able to go ahead with her marriage and be considered an upstanding woman. And the pastor didn’t stop there. He brought up several examples of rape culture through the ages, including this story.
Three women in Ireland lived in an idyllic little town by the sea. One got raped at the age of 16 at a party. The man who raped her denied it and told everyone she was lying. She was immediately ostracized and sent to a nunnery. Her sister, who was 18, met someone at the party, hooked up with him, and had a child out of wedlock. Her child was taken away, she was branded a whore, and she was sent to the nunnery. Her sister, at the age of 14, was pre-emptively sent to the nunnery to prevent her from following in her sisters’ wicked ways. Women and girls all over that town were warned by example what happens when you go to a party and decide to have fun.
The funny thing is, though that story happened in the 60s, it’s not so weird today to see women blamed for being raped. One Indian woman was brutally gang-raped on a city bus and died as a result of her injuries; another, a teenager, committed suicide on December 27, naming her attackers. India is one of the world’s most likely countries to turn a blind eye to rape. People all over commented on this. She shouldn’t have been out at that time. She shouldn’t wear suggestive clothing. And we’ve heard this all before. Watch your drink, ladies, because you could get drugged. Never go into a dark parking garage or walk alone at night.
But here’s the hopeful part of this story. India is no longer standing for their society’s meek acceptance of rape culture. Women, girls, and even men are standing up everywhere and protesting the relatively light sentences that the men who gang-raped that young student in New Delhi. They are protesting the fact that rapists get off easily, often never being held accountable for their crimes. They insist that we need to teach our sons not to rape, not teach our daughters how not to get raped. They’re protesting the fact that most of the time, women are not lying about rape, and many don’t report it because of the fear of not being believed.
Rape culture is pervasive. I, as a woman, fight against it every day with millions of other women and men who have experienced it firsthand. But through this Indian tragedy, we’re seeing the wave of change. Maybe my potential sons and daughters will be the ones to finally push this into place, that women, and some men, are not to be victimized because “I want to”. We are not sex objects. We are people and deserve bodily respect and safety.
I wonder what the Virgin Mary would have thought about seeing the same rape culture in our society that she experienced over 2000 years ago. I wonder what would happen if a woman today got pregnant out of wedlock and told everyone she was carrying the Messiah. Would she be believed? Or would she be written off as mentally ill, trying to get attention, or simply stupid?
I’m not here to argue whether or not Jesus was the Messiah or Mary actually went through what the Bible says she went through. All of this is down to faith. But rape culture is not to be argued with. If you benefit from rape culture, take a step back and think about why. Strive for change. India is seeing the light . . . when will North America?
Editor's Note: This post was updated to reflect the heartbreaking news that a teen victim of gang rape in India commited suicide on December 27. -- Julie
Editor's Note: This post was updated to reflect that the victim of gang rape in New Delhi has died in a hospital in Singapore. -- Rita