There have been similar stories before but the one that came from India in December of 2012 of a 23 year old medical student who, after getting on a bus with her male friend, was attacked, raped and tortured by a gang of men on the bus. After their initial crimes the men threw her and her male companion, who had been beaten by the thugs, out of the bus and onto the road. The young woman died two weeks later from her injuries. The rapist murderers were arrested, four received harsh sentences but one was given only three years in a juvenile prison, he is in his late teens. Despite the obvious evil nature of this kind of conduct it appears to have had little impact in reducing the numbers or nature of attacks against women and girls. While the above mentioned attack outraged millions in India and around the world less than a month ago another took place with equally despicable, if not worse characteristics.
On December 31, 2013, a 16 year old girl was gang raped twice and then set on fire, this happened in Calcutta. Asia News reports that this, sadly, had not been her first victimization they report “The young woman’s tragic fate began on 25 October when she was attacked and raped by two men on the outskirts of Calcutta. She was later found in fields near her house”. Another story, this one from the Hindustan Times (December 20, 2013) reports on an eight year old girl being raped and killed in Greater Noida, India. As if competing for most despicable another case out of India reported last year in the New York Times was of a 4 year old who had been lured by an adult male who offered to buy her a banana, he kidnapped and raped her. The NYT (Aug. 30, 2013) reported that her doctor had said “She suffered severe brain injury and severe injury to her vagina – her heart and lungs stopped functioning. Her heart and lungs stopped functioning”. The Doctor went on to say ” It is very inhuman that such a young girl was subjected to sexual abuse”.
Just to India’s north-east sits Nepal, a place of natural beauty and an intriguing history, but here too there appears to be persistent cases of abuse and subjugation of women and girls, denying too many freedom, opportunity or even simply a life. In one case reported from my friend from Nepal, Kamala Salup, she writes about someone tricked and trapped into a life experience no one should be subjected to. In this case her story begins “My mother had a dream exactly like mine that her daughter would get some education by going to the city and could stand on her own to make her living. But I was brought to this terrible brothel and was sold by my own uncle’s son.” Her story goes on-“-my right over my own body was snatched away from me. Often a question tormented me from time to time. After all, what was the real meaning of a person to live as a woman?” She goes on-“who was there to love me in that world of money? -But now I have returned to my own country with the germs of AIDS in with me.” This such a sad account, it is so important to keep in mind and especially keep children informed that money has no true value and that love, love for others and an interest in and concern for their well being is in actuality why we are here. (I encourage you to check out Kamala’s excellent and interesting reporting at Kamala B. Sarup at OpEdNews and at her website MediaForFreedom.com)
Afghanistan also has long had a problem with kidnapping and rapes of girls and women. There is a struggle that we all should support for the equality of women and girls in Afghanistan. There are regular cases of rape and crimes against women and girls in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps the best place to keep updated on Women and girls in Afghanistan is http://www.rawa.org. The continued attacks, bombings and occasional poisonings at the girls schools show that for the Taliban or other Islamic groups that may support them girls are not valued at all.
Women and girls in South Africa have been having a particularly rough time. Statistically South Africa ranks highest in the world for sexual assaults. Nelson Mandela expressed great concern over this issue. Being a man for and about freedom, this issue is about one of the most fundamental aspects of it. His wisdom and conscientiousness should inspire others to work for positive change. Else where on the continent, in Kenya a woman or girl is raped every 30 minutes. In these locations and throughout the African continent there are women and organizations working to bring about a positive change, they all deserve our support.
In Asia the situation for millions of women and girls is shocking and heartbreaking but here too there are people working hard to save girls and women and to end one of humanities most evil practices. In the Asia Pacific area it is estimated that 11.7 women and girls are trafficked. Cambodia is one of the places where the subjugation of females is prevalent, resulting in the selling and at times kidnapping of girls. They are looked at as a commodity or something to be used instead of as a human being. The Cambodian sex industry is propped up by large numbers of North Americans and Europeans going to Cambodia, and Thailand as sex tourists. There was one case of an American arrested for rape of a little girl, one that had been forced into prostitution. This lone arrest should be multiplied, there should be no tolerance for “johns”. Someone who has been very active in informing the world about the plight of thousands of women and girls in Cambodia is Somaly Mam. She had been sold into prostitution as a little girl in Cambodia. She lived almost a decade as a young prostitute in Cambodia until finally through a combination of courage and luck she was able to become free. She now run the Somaly Mam Foundation which works at freeing girls and women from prostitution, I encourage you to support her organization.
Elsewhere in Asia it is estimated that close to 1 million Indonesian women and children have been trafficked. In a U.N. report from last year there was an curious graph that showed the stats for men and rape in some Asian countries. From a U.N. study-“Men Who’ve Committed Rape, Bangladesh 11.1%, Cambodia 20.8%, China 22.7%, Indonesia 31.9%, Papua New Guinea 60.7%, Average 24.o%”
One of my favorite authors, who had written extensively on Asia issues, Chalmers Johnson, was also a highly respected U.S. military veteran. He was troubled by ongoing sexual assaults by U.S. military personnel on women and girls in both the Philippines and Okinawa. In one case, on Nov. 2, 2005, six marines from Okinawa, who had been dispatched to the Philippines to train Filipino soldiers in anti terrorist tactics, raped a Filipina student outside of the former U.S. military base at Subic Bay. Also in 2005, a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant molested a ten year old Okinawa girl on her way to school. In both cases, and many others both before and after these incidents the U.S. has let these kind of crimes go unpunished through its “Immunity from prosecution” clause in their “Visiting Forces Agreement”. I believe the immunity from prosecution is another crime on top of the other crimes.
Another crime against women and girls that I believe most people in the U.S. are unaware of but it is very close to home. They are somewhat old but they remain unsolved and hopefully they have stopped. These are the rape/murders of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Beginning in the 1990s the rape and murder of young women and girls started, they likely continued into the 2000s but I have not heard of any recent cases. Aside from the rape murders themselves the other disturbing aspect is that too few people seemed to care. There was at least one book written on the subject, but this too is something we should all care about.
In the U.S., high school football, one of the countries most significant cultural traditions and an unfortunate exemplar of how off skew some Americans priorities and values are. In Steubenville, Ohio on August 11, 2012, a 16 year old girl was raped by two boys from the Steubenville High school football team. The girls family tried to report the rape but the police did nothing. They and the whole town sided with their “star” players. A very similar case occurred in Missouri. Daisy Coleman who was a cheerleader at Maryville high school, after she was raped she endured bullying and was run out of town. Her rapist, Mathew Barnett, received a four year suspended sentence and two years probation. Another example of what misogyny does in America, the saddest of the examples, is that of Audrie Pott. At Saratoga high school in Saratoga, California Audrie Pott, who was only 15 when she died, had been raped by three Saratoga high school football players. They had encouraged her to drink alcohol and after she passed out they raped her and videotaped her being assaulted which they posted on the internet. Audrie committed suicide on September 10, 2012. Her attackers -two received 30 day sentences- on weekends. The third got 45 days, all three in juvenile hall.
My concern for these issues began at a early age. When I was 6 my father died leaving my mother with four kids to take care of, of which I was the youngest. Shortly after my dad had passed away I had a brain tumor and surgery to have it removed and at the time very emotionally dependent on my mother. My dad was a catholic and my mom had been a protestant which of course should not have mattered. But, what did happened is that when my mom needed emotional support from her family she was not getting it. And another thing began to occur, a close male relative of my mother would do something unforgivable, at least to me, he would beat up my mother. He was bigger and she was still heartbroken over the death of her husband, my dad. When this happened I was confused and scared too but I would go between them and miraculously this would usually make him stop. I was always relieved that it made him stop and kind of shocked too. I must have looked quite silly still having a bald head and everything but it all came to an end one day, my mother shot herself. I was 7 and completely heartbroken. I cried myself to sleep for six months. A couple of years later my moms relatives had invited me and my older sister to a “family” Thanks giving dinner, this was the first time they showed an interest in us. When we went it turned out me and my sister was too serve them all thanksgiving dinner, we would be allowed to sit down and only after everyone else had been served and eaten. A important digression, one of my vivid childhood memories is of my mom, knocking on these relatives doors wanting to talk, wanting some emotional support, and I would see them peeking from behind the drapes as my mom was knocking on their door. She would come back to the car crying. My moms emotional turmoil and her abandonment by her family when she needed them most, and her eventual suicide is at least in part why I have always empathized and sympathized with women and girls. I could not save my mom but I do feel that all the women and girls of the world are part of my family too. I strongly encourage you all to reach out and help all our mothers, sisters and daughters to make sure they are all safe and free.