A Passage to India? Perhaps Not.
So here’s an interesting thing you may not have known about the young woman who was brutally raped by six men on a bus in India last month, after she was left naked and bleeding on the street, after her assailants rammed an iron pole inside her, which damaged nearly every major internal organ between her pelvis and her throat and caused her eventual death.
The passersby just stared. Nobody helped. Not. One. Person.
Even the police did not offer her and her male friend clothes, and it took them two hours to get help. What were the police doing? Having a smoke?
I may have an opportunity to go to India this year. For a yoga teacher and student of more than 15 years, and an author of yoga books, this could be a great thing. India to a yoga teacher is like Jerusalem to a Jew. It is the spiritual motherland.
Except that this motherland has a sick secret. Women are raped a lot. While only 15,000 rapes were reported in 2011, there are hundreds of thousands more committed routinely against women of castes who do not report these crimes because to do so would ruin their families.
While rape may ruin a woman’s life, India has a culture where to report it and bring into the light of justice would cause further harm. Families of the victim would lose their reputation, their jobs, and their friends. They would be outcasts and have to leave the country. The stigma would even follow them to Indian communities in other countries. It is a stain that cannot be washed away. Ever.
If there is any way to create change, it is economically. Years ago, South Africa had no incentive whatsoever to deal with the effects of apartheid until the world shined a bright light on it and embargoed trade. Angola and Sierra Leone used Conflict Diamonds to feed their war, those mined by enslaved children as young as eight years old. Now the largest diamond dealers are careful to trace their product, and I can buy jewelry that is not conflict-produced.
If change is going to happen, then it will be started by the outraged world at large. The problem of rape and caste and stigma is too interwoven with the culture for the country to fix it from within. The solution has to come from without. And that begins with us, the yoga community.
Yogis spend much more time worrying whether their produce is organic than they do that the women of India are unsafe. We have yoga-thons for the children of Cambodia and the starving in Africa and the gorillas threatened by the production of palm oil. Which are all very good causes.
But never, not once, have I been asked to raise money for the brutalized women of India. Because according to authorities, they do not exist until they die in a Singapore hospital.
I will not let this young girl’s death go unnoticed. I will not be like the passersby that evening in India who let her bleed out on the street like a feral dog. I will stand with her father, who against all traditions in India demanded yesterday that his daughter be named publicly so that her death has meaning.
If I go to the motherland this year, this ‘mother’ will not go quietly. I will bring with me the outrage of millions of women everywhere. I will shine a light on this disgrace at every touristy temple. I won’t be wearing saris with a dot on my forehead. I will wear this woman’s name emblazoned on a shirt and stand with her until change, real change happens.
I. Will. Not. Look. The. Other. Way.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She is the author of “Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga,” and “Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga.” She is a Columnist for Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine, and a contributor to Teachasana and My Yoga Online. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches Hatha Yoga in Denver, Co. You can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.