Indian Bishops Urge Legislators to Protect Women

TRICHUR, India (CNS) — In the wake of the national outcry over the gang rape and death of a paramedical student and reports of rapes from across the country, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has called for “comprehensive laws and effective measures to ensure the security and safety of women.”

“Instances of sexual violence against women and children have increased [at] an alarming rate, the most shockingly being the sexual gang rape and murder of a young medical student in the capital city of Delhi,” the bishops said in a statement on 23 January.

“This dastardly act of violence had evoked unprecedented protest … cutting across all barriers,” they said.

The 23-year old medical student died on 29 December in a Singapore hospital to which she was airlifted when her condition worsened. She was gang raped and tortured on 16 December by five men and a juvenile in a private bus.

The young woman and her boyfriend had boarded the bus after its staff offered them lift at a bus stop. The crime led to massive protests in New Delhi and other cities.

“This is not an isolated incident. Hundreds of rape cases are being reported every day across the nation. … This is indeed a very alarming situation,” said the bishops.

“This [increasing sexual violence] shows that [the] essence of humanity has eroded badly in our country,” Bishop Albert D’Souza of Agra, secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, told Catholic News Service on 24 January.

“Social norms are being eroded under the commercialization of media that is projecting woman as a commodity,” Bishop D’Souza said.

While welcoming the strong and stringent measures the government has initiated to curb the violence against women and children, bishops cautioned: “This awakening should not be momentary.”

A judicial commission appointed by the federal government to reform rape laws emphasized the role of value education through family, school and religions.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly has begun offering sex education as part of catechism classes. An archdiocesan official told CNS that several dioceses have already shown interest and asked for information about the sex education module that has been introduced to eighth-grade students this year.

Bishop D’Souza said that the “church should not miss opportunities to educate adolescents on sex.”

“The family should be first classroom for this. The parents have a big duty to educate the children on sex and conjugal life,” he added.

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