Human Face

Gang rape of a 75-year-old nun

What kind of men are these? From what depths of hell did they come?

In the news is how a group of men who burglarized a convent in West Bengal in India also gagged and gang-raped a 75-year-old Catholic nun who lived in that convent. India has not yet gotten over the much-publicized case of a young woman who was mercilessly violated by a gang of rapists in December 2012 and now this, and during International Women’s Month at that.


Enraged local residents have taken to the streets to condemn this despicable crime. TV footage showed an Indian church official condemning that act and also stressing the fact that this nun had vowed virginity or something to that effect, and so for her to be violated in this way… I couldn’t help retorting that while the rape committed was indeed a horrific crime, it should not matter whether the victim was a saint, a sinner, a nun, a nanny, a street walker, or a socialite. It has nothing to do with the victim’s status in life. It has everything to do with the violators.

At least in our laws, rape is no longer a so-called private crime against chastity but a crime of violence. The state versus the accused: Someone is violated, someone has to pay for the crime.


After the furor in India over the 2012 rape of the young physiotherapy student, reforms were made in its rape laws—speedy trials, increased penalties.

But as they say, one hand gives and the other takes away. The Indian government banned the showing of the documentary on the 2012 rape because it might stoke more public anger. Protestors accused authorities of being more concerned about India’s reputation than the welfare of women. And so it happened again. In March 2015 the convent burglary and the gang rape of the nun took place.

I don’t know if the victim’s age can be cited as an aggravating factor against the rapists. The nun is a septuagenarian who, like a helpless child, could not easily fight back. But then even a 40ish fitness buff would not be able to ward off a bunch of determined rapists.

Every February (that segues into Women’s Month) since 2014, the One Billion Rising for Justice movement has been gathering women worldwide “to demand an end to violence against women and girls by ending the culture of impunity that keeps its place.”

One Billion Rising for Justice is “a global call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather safely in community outside places where they are entitled to justice—courts, police stations, government offices, colleges, work places, places of worship, homes. It is a call to survivors to break the silence and release their stories—politically, spiritually, outrageously—through art, dance, marches, ritual, song, spoken word, testimonies and whatever way feels right.”

The organizers stress that the statistics have not changed. “One in three women on the planet is raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION women violated. ONE BILLION daughters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, lovers and friends. We need to do all we can, speak louder, go further, be bolder—to make sure this [situation] changes. We need more than one billion women and men to sign up for this revolutionary justice…”

For the gang-raped nun who is recovering in hospital, and similarly situated women, these words should ring true for them:


“Our stories have been buried, denied, erased, altered and minimized by patriarchal systems that allow impunity to reign. Justice begins when we speak, release and acknowledge the truth in solidarity and community. ONE BILLION RISING FOR JUSTICE is an invitation to break free from confinement, obligation, shame, guilt, grief, pain, humiliation, rage, and bondage. It is a call to bring on revolutionary justice.”

I quote Susan Brownmiller, author of the book “Against Our Will”: “Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times. From the prehistoric times to the present, rape has played a critical function. It is a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”

This week is the 20th anniversary of the death by hanging of Flor Contemplacion, a Filipino domestic helper in Singapore who was accused of murdering a fellow Filipino domestic helper and her ward, a toddler who was found drowned in a pail of water. Contemplacion’s case gave rise to mass protests and pleas for a reinvestigation but all efforts were for naught. Her hanging caused a diplomatic row between the Philippines and Singapore and the resignation of two Cabinet secretaries in the Ramos administration.

Today’s young reporters were just toddlers at that time, perhaps as young as the Singaporean boy who was killed. I wrote then (“Contemplating Contemplacion and the Church’s task,” 3/9/95):

“Eight days from now, if interventions don’t work, Flor Contemplacion, a Filipino domestic helper in Singapore, will be hanged. Contemplacion was among the hundreds of thousands of overseas contract workers declared by the Inquirer ‘Filipinos of the Year’ at the end of 1994. The news about Contemplacion’s impending death by hanging came on the eve of the Catholic Bishops Conference announcement declaring the first Sunday of Lent National Migrants’ Sunday. As if by coincidence, the day before, Susana Blackwell, pregnant Filipino mail-order bride who had been in the US only two weeks, was shot dead just outside the courthouse where her and her estranged mail-order groom’s case was being heard. Her two sympathetic Filipino friends died with her.

“The Philippine bishops chose the theme ‘Migrant Women and the Family: At What Cost?’ If this were a quiz item the answer could be: Lives. ”

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TAGS: Flor Contemplacion, gang-rape, India, nun, One Billion Rising for Justice, Overseas Filipino Workers
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