India (MNN) — It’s been a year since a young woman was brutally raped and murdered in India. After watching a movie on December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student boarded a bus with her male friend and the pair began their “ride of horror.”
While the bus drove around for an hour, six men took turns raping the young woman and inserting a metal rod into her body; they eventually left her and her friend on the side of the road to die. A Delhi High Court verdict confirming the death penalty for four of the accused assailants is expected next month.
This case drew international attention to women’s rights, and protestors are raising the issue again. The Washington Post says demonstrators took to the streets yesterday, tracing the route of the woman’s “ride of horror.” Candlelight vigils, floral tributes, and marches were held throughout New Delhi.
CH Dyer of Bright Hope International says India is becoming more politically and socially aware of abuses towards women through this case.
“It’s bringing light to an area that has been really pushed aside and ignored,” states Dyer. “Who knows if the statistics are going to be better over the next few years, but certainly the attention that this case brought [has motivated], politically and legally, people to be more engaged.”
By the numbers
Forced marriage, rape, acid attacks, dowry deaths, and domestic violence all pose a threat to the livelihoods of women and young girls. According to UN figures, nearly 2 of every 100,000 Indian women are victims of rape, as well as social and physical exploitation.
India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports that more crimes were committed against women in 2012 than the previous five years. Madhya Pradesh held the highest number of rape cases at 3,425 people, and victims knew their assailant in 98.2% of the cases. Human trafficking is another major threat to India’s women, especially the younger generations.
According to a report released earlier this month by Dasra, the Hummingbird Trust and Japan’s Kamonohashi Project, over 60% of those trafficked into commercial sex work are between the ages of 12 and 16. In addition, NCRB reports that 10.6% of India’s rape victims are under the age of 14.
The most-likely victims of human trafficking are those living on less than a $1 a day. Their desperate situations leave them vulnerable to exploitation. Bright Hope rescues young girls from this plight and provides Christ-centered restoration through local churches.
Bright Hope began their Anti-Human Trafficking program in northern India 18 months ago. Police were resistant at first, but “once this rape case gained national attention, we saw their mindset change 100%,” says Dyer.
“Now, the police are wanting to do these raids; they are…trying to [help] as best as they’re able.”
Unexpected side effects
One of the ways police officers help is by referring minors to Bright Hope’s safe houses. Rather than looking the other way when they encounter underage sex workers, Dyer says, officers connect the girls with Bright Hope.
“There is a whole lot more respect for the Christian community in these locations that we’re working,” says Dyer. In turn, authorities get a glimpse of the Gospel.
“They understand that the Christians in these communities are doing this work because of their faith.”
Evangelism flows naturally from these realizations, and Dyer says he’s amazed by some of the opportunities he’s had to share Christ.
“This is a direct quote: ‘There is just such love in your homes,'” shares Dyer. “They wonder why we’re different, and I told one of the authorities, ‘That’s because of the God we worship.'”
“I could see the wheels turning in his head as he’s thinking and recognizing that God’s love is powerful and tangible.”
Pray that police officers will take the next steps of accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Awareness isn’t just increasing among police officers and other local authorities. The Body of Christ in India is picking up on the problem as well.
“We have seen an increased awareness for justice issues, for the Church being involved, for Christians wanting to be involved,” says Dyer. “Once they find some practical ways of being engaged…the churches, I think, are really pressing forward.”
Bright Hope works through its network of 154 churches in India to fight human trafficking through awareness, rescue, and rehabilitation. Pray that these congregations will accept former trafficking victims into their fold.
“That’s a stretch for these churches,” Dyer explains. “It’s a stretch, not to see [victims] as what they’ve been, but to see them as redeemed and no different than themselves.”
Pray also that local churches increase their support of vulnerable women and children.
“We’re trying to increase local support for these works so that within a few years’ time, we won’t have to support it from the West, but it will be supported locally, within India,” says Dyer.
“We have a Season of Hope catalogue that spells out exactly what a gift will do to help a young woman out of sex slavery,” explains Dyer.