What the International Community Can Do to Support the Protest Against the Delhi Gang Rape

Written by Sabina Dewan

Late Sunday night a 23-year-old woman was gang raped, beaten, and left to die by six men as she attempted to make her way home on a bus after catching a movie in the Indian capital of New Delhi. For all of India’s economic progress over the last two decades, Indian women still struggle for the most basic rights many in the West take for granted—personal safety, freedom, and respect.

This heinous incident incited protests in New Delhi, but unfortunately rape and violence against women have become commonplace in India, especially in the nation’s capital. People are tired of government platitudes and the indifference of law enforcement toward crimes against women. Yet this incident has gone largely unnoticed in other parts of India and across the globe. It should not.

Governments around the world—including the United States—multinational corporations, and international development and human rights organizations expend valuable resources on women’s empowerment programs in developing nations such as India. For them, this horrifying incident is a tangible chance to advocate for stronger policies to protect women from violence, harassment, and discrimination.

But in addition to changes in policy, governments, multinational corporations, and other international institutions that fund empowerment programs should ensure that the programs they support include social awareness campaigns to incite the cultural change needed to transform women in India and nations like it from victims into strong, equal players in society—from a perceived liability into an asset.

Data show that investing in women pays big dividends. The World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report documented that eliminating gender barriers could increase labor productivity by as much as 25 percent in some countries. In their own study, Goldman Sachs found that gender gaps in education in many developing countries have depressed annual per capita growth of income by perhaps as much as 0.9 percentage points. Goldman Sachs’s research also showed that bringing more women into the labor force would raise the annual growth rate of gross domestic product by 1 percentage point in India and even more in countries with worse gender gaps.

These facts have fueled growing support for women’s empowerment programs. Such programs tend to focus on the economic empowerment of women through better access to finance, more opportunities for employment, and entrepreneurship. All are worthy causes to support.

Yet until women feel safe enough to commute to work, until they are free to leave their homes without having to seek permission from every member of their household, and until they are given respect in and out of the workplace, women cannot fully leverage the investments that donors make in economic empowerment programs.

There are a number of organizations across India—such as Maitri, the Self-Employed Women’s Association, and Saath—that work on women’s issues. But the funding that many such organizations receive is often tied to quantitative targets of the number of women they have helped acquire loans or the number of women they have trained and placed in employment. Workshops to help women exit abusive relationships or to develop their confidence and self-esteem, as well as public campaigns that encourage men to view women as equal partners, still need support from international funders and advocates.

Changing the mindset of the men and women in society to afford women the rights they deserve is a long-term proposition, and it is not always something that can be quantitatively measured.

The protests in the wake of Sunday night’s horrific crime, though largely localized to New Delhi, may be a sign of a nascent social awareness that progress as a country depends on instituting safety, freedom, and respect for both women and men. People throughout India and the international community have a responsibility to join the movement.

This post was originally published by the Center for American Progress.


Related Stories:

Ladies: Is a Tight Vagina Really Empowering?

“Eve Teasing”: Indian Crackdown on Sexual Assault

There’s an App for That: Fight Back App Protects Women in New Delhi


Photo: travfotos/flickr


Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara5 years ago


Fiona T.
Past Member 5 years ago

No matter what can be done, it's preferred if something is done

Klaus Peters
Klaus Peters5 years ago

It is about time India uses the law to the fullest extent and if they do not have necessary strict laws to combat crime against women, then the government has to stand up and make the laws severe enough to deter those useless criminals.
The Dheli gang rape and murder is just one case that received publicity, but it is not an isolated case, it happens all over India. Not only rape, but "kitchen accidents" to dispose of young wifes just to get the dowry and marry again. Illegal, but never enforced. India should be specialists in hospital burn unit treatment?

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

I don;t know what the solution is, but something must be done. People should feel safe going anywhere without fear of this type of shit.

rene davis
irene davis5 years ago


Lori Ann Hone
Lori Hone5 years ago

Stop doing business with this uncivilized country, seems the only way to get anyone's attention and reevaluate their actions is with money. Greedy, greedy world!

Elizabeth J.
uma J5 years ago

The ultimate loser is her parents and siblings....Politicians will make umpteen no. of promises till we come across another gruesome rape and murder..........Till then everyone will talk but no will take action......

Mary L.
Mary L5 years ago

This is a sickening thing, but why so little outcry in this county about this country?

Why do we allow politicians to declaim that a woman's body won't permit rape and not start a recall petition immediately? Where is the immediate demand for resignation for the fool judge who said if she isn't half dead she didn't fight back and wanted it?

America has no right to moral outrage until we start really cleaning up our own yard.

Pranav S.

not doing trade with india is just a silly silly idea.
Not the least because India is a primarily agricultural economy. stop trade with India and exports of food stops. Prices of food increase internationally, albeit only a little, while domestic food prices drop, which is exactly what indian households need today. Meanwhile in the west, the next versions of adobe software gets shelved, it support disappears, clothes get expensive and people have to put their weddings on hold since there are no more polished diamonds for rings. Oh and did i mention there would be a shortage of condoms as well. Of course india would suffer as well since most of its oil is imported. In todays globalised world suspending trade is to mutual detriment.

The million dollar question is: Would you be willing to punish 1.12 billion people with added misery for the ghastly action of six?

Its all too easy to say to come up with such half-brained ideas and make broad sweeping statements such as Americans are the most violent and psychotic mass murderers on the planet based on the actions of Adam Lanza, Eric harris and Dylan Klebold amongst others and the country's history of wars.

Besides India already has tough laws for rape. It is the only law in India wherein the accused is presumed guilty unless proven innocent.

S. N.
Susan N5 years ago