The recent vicious rape and assault of a 23 year old physiotherapy student in New Delhi has caused rioting and outrage in India. A policeman injured in the rioting has died and most Indian politicians seem to be distancing themselves from having any responsibility for a justice system that allows so many similar crimes to escape unpunished.
This outrage against rape is an important change in a country where most women are stigmatised if they are victims of rape and are, therefore, afraid to ever report the crime in the first place. In order to have any safety or justice it is essential that rape is seen as a crime that is perpetrated by the rapist rather than caused by the victim. It is an important societal change in India to have the voice of the public blaming the rapists rather than the victim. This public outrage may well help to create at least some will to act amongst the forces of law and order and thereby protect Indian women in the future.
But it’ll take more than just a change in law enforcement to make women in India – and elsewhere – safe. It’ll take a radical change in attitude amongst both men and women.
Not just a rise in respect for women and girls and a real appreciation of how a society cannot function properly with one dominant gender any more than a bird can fly properly if it has one wing tied down.
Not just an understanding that rape is not an action of sexual appreciation but rather one of violence and agression.
Not just a fear of being punished by the law and ostracised by society for committing this heinous crime.
All of these things are vital to creating change but they aren’t enough.
As well as these – and other – changes, there also needs to be a change at the level of the individual human being. A change that makes each one of us see every other person on the planet as something so precious, so special and so vital to even our own welfare that we wouldn’t dream of hurting their feelings let alone violating them in any serious or painful way.
I know we have a bit of a journey before we reach such a place of tender care for our fellow human beings but I believe it’s the place we need to name as our destination. I don’t imagine that many people would object to a world in which they were held in such esteem and treated with such care and reverence. I even think most might be willing to try extending this attitude to others. However, I imagine that a huge number of people might think it impossible to achieve.
And maybe it is impossible.
How do I know.
But what if it is possible?
Isn’t it worth a shot?
If we fail we can just go back to being the way we are now.
But just imagine what might happen if we succeed…
*attributed to Albert Einstein