(Cover image and story image courtesy of Mission India)
India (MNN) ― In recent days, India's president approved a new law giving harsher punishments for sexual crimes. It comes as the result of a December gang rape that sparked international outcry.
"It certainly passes along a very strong message to the country as a whole that the rights of women must be respected," says Dave Stravers of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India.
"More important even than the law is the fact that this has been drawn to everyone's attention. Suddenly, people are thinking about this and saying, 'You know, this isn't right.'"
The government pushed these new changes through the legal process last Friday, and India's president approved it on Sunday. Under the new law, rapists could face the death penalty if their crime results in death or leaves the victim in a "persistent vegetative state."
It also doubles the minimum sentence for rape and increases punishment for other sexual crimes like spying, stalking, and acid attacks.
The new law came into effect immediately. However, India's Parliament needs to approve it within six months in order for the law to become permanent. Pray that the new law would be ratified when Parliament begins its new session on February 21.
"The country is reacting to the international pressures that have been put on them after the media reported this brutal rape," says Stravers. "It's a very good thing for India."
Stravers says transformation is taking place in multiple areas of India: not just in the area of sexual violence and crimes again women, but government corruption and other justice issues, too. He credits these changes to the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
"The influence is going from the Gospel to society," Stravers explains. "Jesus said that Christians are like salt: we can be a very small minority but still have a tremendous influence in the society."
Adult literacy classes are one way Mission India shares the transforming power of Christ with communities. They provide training and materials to their partners in India, who then teach the illiterate how to read and write. They also share the love of Jesus with students.
"That's the program: learning to read and write. However, it's not just literacy. It's also learning about health, it's learning about social responsibility, it's learning about their political rights," Stravers says. "It's really transformative.
"In just 52 weeks, a person can go from being a victim of oppression in the marketplace to being able to take care of themselves and their families."
You can support one of these programs for approximately $2 a month. Click here to learn more.
At a recent visit to one of these classes, Stravers says a 35-year-old Dalit woman stood up with an important message.
"She had this huge smile on her face and said, 'I just want you to know that the day I entered this class three months ago, I discovered that I am a human being.... My own parents told me we're not human,'" recalls Stravers.
He says her story highlights a dual discrimination within India's society.
"There are these caste-discrimination issues, as well as sexual discrimination issues, that are very common in India," Stravers explains. "But people are discovering that there is a better way to live."
Pray that believers would have a platform to share the love of Christ with downcast women. Ask the Lord to give them courage.
"There are forces in India that are opposed to these changes, who want to defend the traditional ways of separating men and women, and separating castes," says Stravers.
He continues, "Let's pray for the women of India that the beating of women will stop, that the rape of women will stop. The Lord is able to make these very fundamental changes in society, and when we pray every day for this and work toward it, it can happen."