The Human Impact

How old is old enough to be jailed for gang rape and murder?

The crime was horrific, the case shocking, and the trial long. Yet when the much anticipated first verdict in the high-profile Delhi gang rape case was pronounced in India over the weekend, there was no jubilation, just outrage.

Found guilty of the gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in December, the teenager – one of six accused – was sentenced to three years in a juvenile home, sparking anger and debate over whether India is too soft on its young offenders. Four adult defendants are on trial in a separate fast-track court. One of the accused committed suicide in jail.

The first reaction came from the parents of the dead 23-year-old student, who was beaten, tortured with an iron rod and raped on the night of Dec. 16 before being dumped on a roadside in the capital.

“It is a crime to be born a girl in this country,” the victim’s mother said after hearing the verdict. “How will I live knowing that the killers of my daughter are still alive?”

Her dissatisfaction has been echoed in many quarters.

From public protests to televised debates with lawyers, activists and politicians, and the Twittersphere, many Indians have felt a sense of injustice over the case, which put a global spotlight on violence against women in India.

Child rape victim jailed in India: A journalist’s “immunity” breaks down

Her story is like so many I have heard in my years of reporting on the plight of girls and women in India.

It is a story of rape. A story of police insensitivity, of ostracism, of fear.

I think I’ve heard enough of these stories to be immune, unaffected by the tale of suffering that each victim recounts in the aftermath of her sexual assault.

But I am wrong — perhaps because this girl is just 10 years old.

Her vulnerability is overwhelming as the shy, dark-skinned little girl with sun-bleached black bobbed hair sits nervously on a charpoy, in a pretty turquoise salwar-kameez with bright pink trim.

Postcard from Brazil: A woman free in Rio, not in Delhi

I have lived in the Indian capital for several years and, like many other women in this metropolis of 16 million, I soon learned how to deal with the lecherous stares and dirty comments, the drunken men in cars who follow my auto-rickshaw home from work at night.

I have learnt to be aggressive, to talk straight and serious when addressing male strangers, to not make eye contact, to not extend a handshake and to certainly not smile, share personal details or be friendly when dealing with men I do not know.

Some may think this is a little severe, but when you are bombarded with reports of crimes against women — of men throwing acid in women’s faces, of women being dragged off the street and gang-raped in moving cars, of little girls being lured, raped and murdered, of women being stalked and harassed, most here will likely agree my actions make sense.

Extreme measures to “protect” daughters in India

Gurpreet Singh is a determined man. But he is an even more concerned father.

The 32-year-old investment adviser is leaving India and migrating to Australia. There is nothing new in that — tens of thousands of professional Indians emigrate every year.

Unlike most of them, Singh’s reason for leaving is not the pursuit of greater economic returns, but a search for something increasingly perceived by parents to be lacking in India — security for their daughters.

It was the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi last December that jolted Singh, like millions of middle-class urban Indians, and awakened him to the brutalities women and girls face in this largely patriarchal country.

Monique Villa: Being a woman in a schizophrenic male world

This past week, chatting away at the dinner table, I was asked about one of my favorite books. My answer was swift: ‘Il Gattopardo’ -”The Leopard”- the masterpiece of Sicilian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

The novel narrates the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Italian Risorgimento, the revolution which led to the abolition of the monarchy and the creation of a unified Italian State in 1861. Central to the story is the idea of change, feared and opposed by the dominant class, but also opportunistically embraced by those willing to re-invent themselves in exchange for a slice of new power. It is Tancredi, the aristocrat joining the revolution to safeguard his family interests, who speaks the novel’s most famous line: “If we want things to stay as they are” – he says – “things will have to change.”

Tancredi’s view is extremely fitting to describe the social status of a generation of women who – from India to Egypt – have enthusiastically embraced change, taking huge risks in the name of education, equal opportunities and progress. But unlike Tancredi, these women have welcomed change in their hearts, and have voluntarily positioned themselves outside traditional schemes. A choice that has given them a different status. These women are a novelty. The mainstream social-context around them hasn’t changed as rapidly as they have.

Is the new Pope bad news for women?

As most of you probably know already, the newly-elected Pope Francis represents a lot of firsts: First Jesuit to become pope. First Latin American (or from the ‘New World’). First pope to take the name Francis.

I’m Italian I take a special interest in his election. He’s the new archbishop of Rome and – due to a long history of mingling between the Italian state and the Catholic Church, due to culture and religion – Italians tend to follow Papal elections with a particular, even if unwanted, attention.

I was messaging my mom on Skype the night the whole thing happened – live webcam on St. Peter’s Square and everything – and I have to say a sort of emotional shiver went through my body as she texted “Biancaaaaaaaaaa” (white) to me as puffs of white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

Public fury over gang-rape in India: Let’s keep up the pressure

So perhaps at last India has woken up to the daily abuse that its girls and women face.

Sunday night’s horrific rape where a 23-year-old woman was beaten and gang-raped on a bus as it drove through the streets of New Delhi has rightly outraged the entire nation.

In a country where news reports of sexual violence against girls and women are commonplace, yet provoke little public reaction, the events over the last four days have been unusual but welcome.

Malala: An icon for millions of girls who want to learn

When it happened two months ago, it shocked the world. Masked Taliban gunmen stopped a school bus filled with children in northwestern Pakistan, boarded it and shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck as she sat in the bus with her friends.

Her crime? She was a campaigner for the right of girls to go to school — an act strictly forbidden by Taliban militants who are still active in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

This was her punishment for defying their edicts, the Taliban had said.

Fortunately, Malala survived and her story — as well as her determination to continue to fight for girls to go to school despite the threat of death — has captivated the world and made her into an international icon for girls’ education.

Dial-a-maid, get-a-slave in middle class India

When I arrived in India some years back as a single mother and full-time journalist, there was one thing I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about – finding domestic help.

Maids, nannies, drivers, cooks and cleaners are ten-a-penny amongst the urban middle classes here.

In New Delhi’s neighbourhoods, for example, most families employ full- or part-time help, who do everything from feeding and bathing babies and cooking family meals to sweeping and washing floors.

UN education goals off track, progress on gender-report

Afghanistan has overcome the biggest obstacles of any country in its efforts to educate girls, according to a new global education reportreleased on Tuesday by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

In 1999, at a time when the ruling Taliban barred girls from getting an education, fewer than 4 percent of girls were enrolled in school, but by 2010 female enrolment was 79 percent, the UNESCO Education for All (EFA) report said.

Community schools, which make travel distances shorter, are credited with increasing security for girls and pushing up enrolment.

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