Malika Saada Saar Headshot

The Gang Rape and Murder of an Indian Woman and a New Year's Commitment to Ending Sexual Violence

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Once in our history, race determined if you were property or not. Those born Black in the American South were born into bondage. The Black body was chattel, controlled by the laws of property rather than human rights. It took the abolitionist movement, a civil war, and the courage of many Black and White Americans to end race-determined enslavement.

And now in the 21st century there is another type of bondage and sub-humanness that is biologically determined: gender-based violence. Like race-based slavery, it is trans-global, and culturally entrenched.

Because of our gender, women and girls are vulnerable to rape or abuse, harassment or exploitation, trafficking or child marriage. Regardless of who we are or where we live, being female renders us at greater risk for being hurt by some form of violence. No country, no race, no level of education or wealth protects any girl or young woman from violence.

If nothing else proves to us that gendered violence is our modern-day iteration of race-based slavery, it should be the heinous gang rape, beating and murder of a young Indian medical student. She boarded a bus with a male friend. Six men on the bus stripped her, brutally penetrated her with an iron rod, and then tossed her body off the bus. The injuries to her were so severe that she died of multi-organ failure.

In India, there have been protests and circles of mourning for the young woman. Men and women, young and old, have joined together in the thousands to demand an end to violence against women and girls, and the culture of impunity that protects and perpetuates it. But gender-based violence is not India's burden alone. Like slavery before, it is a stain on every nation.

And so that this young woman's rape and murder is not in vain, nor the rape, exploitation, and murder of so many other women and girls be in vain or normalized, we must make the end of gender-based violence the new abolitionist movement. Being female should not mean that we are therefore destined to a life without safety or dignity. In honor of Malala, in memory of the raped and murdered girl in India, in praise of all of our daughters and the lives that they deserve to have, let us resolve that in this New Year we commit to the abolition of gendered violence everywhere.