Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sexual Assault: It's not only India's problem

If asked to choose the most heinous crime of the past year, the Delhi gang-rape will top my list. Of course, any homicide is despicable, especially when it includes mass killings of innocent children such as at Sandy Hook, or shoving an unsuspecting Queens passenger onto the tracks as an oncoming train approaches. But the last two crimes were committed under extreme mental conditions. The crime against the 23-year old Indian woman, however, is more perverse because it was manipulated by bravado.

The news of the attack caused an uproar in India and across the global community. Many responded with shock as the details of the crime leaked - how a young woman can be so brutally attacked by otherwise normal males on a joy ride. Pictures of the woman were immediately posted on social websites, although it appears they were not of the actual victim herself, local and international women's rights advocates demanded change, politicians made the expected condemnations. The media did its best to capture the pain of the ordeal and its aftermath. For a brief moment, the world united as it does in such tragedies, but then something strange happened.

Suddenly, India's culture and legal structure was at fault. Somehow, the crime was isolated to a particular region. No mention was ever made of the millions of women worldwide who are assaulted in developed nations, some of whom suffer in silence, in countries that, unlike India, punish such crimes.

In 2010, there were 84,767 reported rapes in the U.S. alone and 16,000 in the entire United Kingdom. A government report released in England has found that about 75 to 95 percent of such crimes go unreported.

I always ask myself the same question when my posts appear off-topic: What does this have to do with business? And the response is, as usual: Everything.

Consider that in 2010, there were 11,717 cases of sexual harassment charges made in the workplace.  While this figure is less than the number of cases of past years, it does not include those employees who elect not to come forward. Eleven thousand victims of sex-related violations is still a large number, especially in this country.

It was later discovered that the friends were intoxicated. I'm not sure whether this news was supposed to explain away the assailants' actions or to perhaps minimize the reaction. The Delhi rape victim was not attacked because of a flaw in India's laws or its perception of women. She was attacked because young men everywhere still think it's okay to sexually dominate a woman.



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