A 23-year-old woman was attacked yesterday in Uttar Pradesh and is currently fighting for her life. In India, a woman is raped every 15 minutes. For Archbishop Gerald John Mathias, "Respect for women is learnt in the family". Discrimination against them "starts in the mother's womb". Everywhere the Indian Church is working for female empowerment.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Indian Church "feels sorrow and shame for all the violence against women,” said Mgr Gerald John Mathias, Bishop of Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), speaking to AsiaNews.
The recent incidents in India, including one in his diocese where a 23-year-old woman is between life and the death, are "a serious offence to human dignity”. For women, it is a "serious problem in terms of security and safety".
For the bishop, "respect for women is something learnt in the family. Women give us life. A mother can sacrifice her life to give birth to a child. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for this and I pray to Our Lady, our Mother, every day.”
Yesterday in Uttar Pradesh a young woman was going to Unnao to testify against her rapists, but the latter and three other men attacked her, dousing her with petrol and setting her on fire. They were arrested a few hours later.
Tonight “after Mass, we will conduct a torchlight procession on the outside stairs of St Joseph's Cathedral,” said Bishop Mathias.” We shall gather to pray for the victim and show our solidarity. We urge everyone to participate.”
The 23-year-old woman is presently laying in Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi in very serious conditions with burns over 90 per cent of her body. For the doctors treating her, there is little chance that she will survive. A week ago, in a similar case, a 27-year-old veterinarian was raped and found burnt in Hyderabad.
For the Bishop of Lucknow, "the situation is very sad. Every day, similar cases are reported in different parts of the country but most cases are not reported. Of those that are, a few become front-page news, like those in Delhi (in 2012) and Kathua (2018).”
About a year and a half ago, “the Reuters Foundation ranked India as the worst country for women. The government tried to deny it, but the latest Unnao incident is proof.”
In India, a sex-related crime occurs every 15 minutes. Perpetrators try to destroy the evidence whilst the police often fail to do their duty and are accused of negligence or denying protection to women, like in the Unnao case, where the two rapists were freed on bail.”
For the prelate, the rising number of cases "is alarming. At the same time, we are concerned about the climate surrounding the people who speak out. Many fear revenge, not only for themselves, but also for their friends and family.”
In India, he adds, "preference for boys is strong and widespread, whilst girls are discriminated against from birth.” There is also a “growing number of female infanticides, unwanted girls who are aborted in the womb.”
Such “discrimination and misogyny begin in the womb, even before birth. Rules do exist, like the ban on prenatal screening for sex determination, but they are evaded and people illegally perform the tests”.
"The Indian Church is working against the mindset that devalues women. It seeks to empower women and girls everywhere. We do too in our diocese. We make them aware of their dignity and rights. We do not want them to be discriminated against, in the broader society or even in schools. We give them the same opportunities as men.”
“We start from simple things, like the readings during Mass, or make them speak at debates, in family and school meetings. We are a small minority in the country, but I believe that what we do is significant.” (A.C.F.)