By Lilia Cornelio
Last month’s brutal rape and subsequent death of a 23 year old physiotherapy student in India has pushed the world’s simmering discontent on laws protecting women into a boiling rage as protesters took to the streets calling for change.
I felt shamed just by reading how violent the incident on December 16, 2012 was and to know that this rape case is just one part of a larger global problem on violence against women. Nevertheless, the clamor for change can only go so far if we continue to tackle the problem in a haphazard fashion.
Where does the heart of the problem lie in this convoluted topic?
First, we should understand that sexual violence against women is a complex issue full of sociological undertones. One analysis that I’ve encountered speaks of sex-selective abortion and its influence on sexual violence against women. Many countries such as India and China have a surplus of men due to the fact that families choose to abort a baby girl in order to wait for a baby boy. As the number of women diminishes, the wealthier men of more developed countries import women from less developed countries as mail-order brides or trafficked prostitutes.
However, to claim that the high number of rapes in India, or the rest of the world for that matter, is mainly due to the negative influences of traditional son-preference is to assess the issue through half-opened eyes.
Perhaps the problem lies in the uneven development in most urban cities. Crime thrives where there are unequal opportunities and people are driven to discard societal values in exchange for temporary respite from the drudgery of their everyday lives. Or, maybe it lies in the many pitfalls of a legal system where there are insufficient laws concerning gender-based violence like rape. Only a few women would choose to relay what they’ve experienced if there is only a slim chance that they would receive justice.
In my opinion, sexual violence against women begins at the very core of our understanding of who a woman is and her role in society. It is only by going back to the heart of our humanity and our dignity that we can finally understand the cause of this gender-based problem and find a solution. I wish to go back to WYA’s Declaration on Women and this phrase, “[Woman] equal in dignity, and in a way that is complementary to man…”, to emphasize how important a woman is in a community in the way that she selflessly nurtures and generously gives her gift of self.