12/28/2012, 00.00
INDIA
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Catholic doctor: Delhi rape an attack on life itself

by Nirmala Carvalho
For a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the attack suffered by the young woman and the violent reaction of civil society is a sign of a "distorted and patriarchal mentality." Family, institutions and movies define man by his aggression and possessiveness over women. Harsher penalties needed, but gender equality, education and economic independence must also be promoted.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Not only a terrible act of violence, but "an attack on life itself", Dr. Pascoal Carvalho, Catholic physician and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life comments to AsiaNews on the gang rape in New Delhi suffered by a young woman of  23. Yesterday the victim was admitted to the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, a specialized facility in Singapore, where doctors hope to stabilize and save her. Despite the five operations at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, her condition is still critical: the young woman suffered a serious head injury, infections of the lungs and abdomen, as well as cardiac arrest.

In India the attack has sparked a strong reaction of civil society, in addition to repeated protests - one of which resulted in the death of a policeman - by feminist associations, politicians and students are asking the government for "stringent action" to punish the culprits. This morning, Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress party, broke her silence by expressing solidarity with the young woman, and stressing that "no time will be lost in bringing the perpetrators of this barbaric an act to justice." The constant government reassurance is not sufficient for the population, which is calling for extreme measures: the death penalty, a national registry of rapists, chemical castration.

According to Dr. Carvalho, what happened to the girl - and the violent reactions that have followed - reveal a "distorted thinking" typical of Indian society, according to which "the male identity is asserted through aggression and possession of women ". Only by pursuing "justice and gender equality" and "economic independence" will the nation be able "to ensure true dignity, autonomy and rights for girls, boys and women." Unfortunately, the doctor adds, "the Indian patriarchal mentality is continuously proposed not only at home but also in institutions, in the media and educational system."

Among the many crimes against women, sexual violence is the most widespread in the country, and New Delhi is the city with the highest rate. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, says Dr. Carvalho, "in 2010 the capital recorded 414 cases of rape. Studies also reveal that for every rape that is reported, 50 go unreported. In 2012 Delhi has witnessed 635 rapes so compared to 564 during same period last year. In Delhi, 754 persons are arrested in rape cases in 2012, but the number of convicted is just 1". "The magnitude of the problem - concludes the doctor - is thus far larger than figures reveal and stringent laws and fast track courts will be deterrents, but there has to be an attitudinal change which will result in gender justice and gender empowerment".

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