For this, our last commentary, I am focusing on two stories from India. These embody the trauma and healing that girls are forced to endure, through no fault of their own, merely for being born female. They speak to the greater mission of Girl Museum, to raise awareness about girls’ issues and rights around the world. But also why it is so hard to be a girl.
In December 2014 in Agra, India, home of the Taj Mahal, notably one of the most beautiful buildings in the world created by a man for the woman he loved, a new cafe opened. This unique cafe, called Sheroes Hangout, is a monument to the corruption and toxicity of male “love.” Founded by a crowdfunding campaign, this cafe/lounge is managed and run by girls and women survivors of acid attacks. An abominable reality across India, with over 1000 attacks each year. The depth of depravity of these attackers, attempting to destroy these girls’ lives with a 50 cent bag of acid, is met only by their bravery and will to survive and overcome the physical and psychological scars. In a world devoted to appearances, these girls are showing their customers and the world that they are so much more. But also to show us that such hate is possible and we have to take responsibility for it. Sheroes, truly.
The second story is about a new law passed by India’s Supreme Court that is more progressive than many countries in the European Union. The age of consent in India is 18, and 15 if you are married. The ruling says that any sex with girls under the age of 15, even if married, is rape. Of course, it will be difficult to enforce, and the girl must report the rape within a year of the event, but it does close a loophole that basically exempted men from marital rape charges. It is definitely a win for girls’ rights in India and will hopefully influence other countries with widespread child marriage.
In France and Spain, for a rape conviction, there must be violence, regardless of age. This has led most recently to street protests in Madrid after 5 men were convicted of the lesser crime of sexual assault instead of gang rape, because the 14 year old victim was unconscious and couldn’t fight back. There are clearly many more loopholes to close the legal definitions of rape globally. We must fight for these in the streets as well as the courtrooms. Yet one step forward tends to lead to two steps back. Be vigilant. And stay strong.
Ashley E. Remer
Girl New International