The incredible story that has rocked India and shocked the world started like any normal evening out for a group of friends, but ended with severe beatings, vicious rape and eventually death. This is a tragedy and crime against an innocent woman, beyond comprehension or words. But it is also one of countless such tragedies that are happening every day all over the world – a Nepalese teenager being recently burned alive after rejecting a marriage proposal from an Indian national, 1,100+ women raped every month in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a method of warfare, and sexual violence throughout the conflicts in Syria and Mali are adding to this seemingly never-ending list.
There are no accurate totals on the number of rape victims world-wide each year, a result of deficient data collection in many countries, but a look at the some of the largest cities that have numbers available puts the figure in the millions and daily averages in the thousands. And these numbers and types of incidents are just scratching the surface. The situation is different and complex in every area and region.
In India alone, sexual assault is not even the biggest threat against women. Researchers estimate that dowry murder claims the lives of 25,000 to 100,000 women a year. Other horrific acts such as trafficking, female genital mutilation and honor killings are all part of reality in the world’s largest democracy.
The perception that prevalent violence against women is a developing country problem is also completely untrue. There are approximately 1.3 million rape cases in the United States every year, and only 18 percent result in convictions. Around every 6 days in Canada, a woman is killed by her intimate partner. In Europe, Australia and North America, over half of women with disabilities have faced physical abuse.
The plight of women around the world cannot be characterized only through violence and abuse as well. Critical issues such as gender inequality at school, child marriages and workplace discrimination have been the focus of goals and initiative after initiative, but they still fundamentally affect many and highlight deep-rooted problems in societies.
Undoubtedly, there are millions of women who have new rights and opportunities and have fought hard for them. There are the visionaries and leaders we hear about in the news – Aung San Suu Kyi and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Marissa Mayer and Indra Nooyi, and the ones we don’t hear about – the women we may know and those across the world who work day-to-day and lead by example in their communities professionally and personally.
They are going to take our world to a better place and they already have. This is often considered “progress” and it is extraordinary. But it is also very limited and needs to occur for countless still facing severe and indescribable challenges.
Shamir Tanna is a contributing columnist. Email him at email@example.com.