(Images courtesy Mission India)
India (MNN) ― President of India Pranab Mukherjee signed an ordinance on February 3, 2013 which tightens punishment for crimes against women.
The new law was a response to the death of a young student in December 2012 following a gang rape. In the wake of her death, mass protests erupted, calling for better protection for women against sexual violence.
Her case brought to light the state of women's affairs in India. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of India, more than 24,000 rape cases were registered in the country in 2011.
That's just the sexual assaults. In 2011, the Bureau noted over 99,000 cases of cruelty by husband and relatives, about 43,000 cases of molestation, more than 35,000 cases of kidnapping and abduction, and over 8,000 dowry killings.
The violence against women is also explained by another issue: the devaluation of women in India. Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India recently shared how this impacted them with the story of 23-year-old Jaibati, a young woman who survived her in-laws' attempt at murdering her.
Mission India spokeswoman Lindsay Ackerman reveals the stunning details of Jaibati's case:
Jaibati's parents were poor and had sacrificed everything to put Jaibati through school. They admitted honestly that they would not be able to afford to pay a dowry to give their daughter in marriage. They wanted assurance from Chaman that he would not make any demands for a dowry in the future. Chaman instantly took hold of Jaibati's father's hands and said that he wasn't expecting anything from them other than their daughter.
Hearing all this, Jaibati was overjoyed that Chaman wasn't interested in marrying her for money. She hoped for a happy life with him. Soon, Jaibati and Chaman were married. For the next three months, they lived happily.
Then, during the fourth month of their marriage, Chaman visited his father-in-law and asked him for 40,000 rupees (about $730). Chaman explained that he urgently needed the money and would pay it back in a month or two. Jaibati's father, being a poor man, politely said he had very little money, which he was saving for his old age. He said that he wouldn't be able to help Chaman.
Angrily, Chaman walked home. After Chaman told his parents what had happened, they bitterly hated Jaibati's father--and took it out on Jaibati. They humiliated her and insulted her. Soon, they began to physically abuse Jaibati by kicking and slapping her. They beat her black and blue, torturing her every day. They even spread a rumor that Jaibati had gone insane.
They told lies to their son, saying that his wife was a characterless woman and that he had made a mistake marrying her. They told Chaman that Jaibati wasn't fit to be his wife. Chaman's parents assured him that they would arrange his marriage with another girl ...after killing Jaibati. They tried to convince Chaman to help them kill her. Raising his hands, Chaman told them not to involve him in their plan, but he said they could do as they wished.
One afternoon, when Jaibati was sleeping alone in her room, she woke up to flames and thick smoke billowing around her. She cried out, but no one came to rescue her. The flames rose higher and higher. Jaibati ran towards the door and tried opening it, but it was bolted from the outside. She frantically leaned against a small window and screamed at the top of her voice until she went hoarse. Fortunately, some neighbors heard her terrible screams, broke open the door, and rescued Jaibati who was half-burnt and unconscious.
The neighbors rushed Jaibati to the hospital. Doctors did not give any assurance that she would survive because 43% of her body was burned. Miraculously, Jaibati did recover. She realized that her in-laws had conspired to kill her. Neither her husband nor his parents had come forward to rescue her during the fire.
Jaibati shuddered as she recounted the events to her grief-stricken parents. Jaibati's parents were unable to afford hospital expenses. So with heavy hearts, they brought their daughter home. Jaibati, in pain and discomfort, still had puss oozing out of her raw wounds. Her father went to a nearby place where Bharat, a Mission India Church Planter he had heard about, was staying. In agonizing tears, her father shared the entire episode of what had happened.
Bharat sympathized with this father and at once went to the family's house and saw Jaibati ailing in a pathetic condition. Bharat shared few words from the Bible and encouraged the family members to take courage, and he prayed for Jaibati. In the days ahead, Bharat regularly prayed for Jaibati, and this brought great comfort to the family as Bharat helped the family in whatever way he could.
After a few months, Jaibati recuperated from her burns but still has difficulty while turning or bending her neck.
Ackerman explains, "Over the course of weeks, this church planter continued to minister to Jaibati and her parents, and often visited to pray with them, to read to Jaibati from the Scriptures, and through this experience, the whole family came to Christ." Church planters like Bharat are passionate about their faith, but often lack the tools and training to effectively reach their nation. Mission India assists through their Church Planter Training program.
In times of crisis, people are looking for Truth, notes Ackerman. "They have no hope. They have nowhere to turn. Their own gods offer no comfort and often seem like they're punishing them." That Bharat was in the neighborhood at that time is why Mission India's Church Planting program exists.
Mission India is countering the message India's women are hearing that they don't matter. Developing relationships is part of what they do. Being ready with a response for the hope they have and being in the right place at the right time is key. God does the rest. "When people hear the Gospel, when they encounter Christ for the first time, and discover that they are cherished, they are loved and that they are created with a purpose, it gives them an incredible hope in the face of all that darkness that truly transforms their lives, despite the physical and emotional challenges that they might still face."
Church Planters complete one year of combined classroom training and supervised fieldwork. "At the end of a year, their goal is to have planted two new churches and to have shared the gospel with at least 600 families. So, they're able to make an incredible impact even in that first year, and then they're able to continue on in their ministry. It really launches them on a lifetime of ministry in India." Church Planters often open doors to communities through Children's Bible Clubs.
India also screens and approves applicants, provides materials in 13 Indian languages, supervises the classroom instruction and fieldwork, and requires Church Planters to submit progress reports every six months during their training.
Because it's comprehensive, there's a waiting list, Ackerman explains. "We have many church planters who are waiting to enroll in our training program. We offer them 1-year training. During that time, not only are they in the classroom learning, but they are also out there ministering to people like Jaibati and her parents."