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January 4, 2013 · 


By Fr. Shay Cullen

There are certain tipping points in history that caused global upheaval and social unrest and political change. A tipping point is when a situation generates so much pressure of human emotion, anger and frustration, it causes an irreversible social reaction that affects a nation, a region or the human race and there is no undoing it. One person can cause a tipping point, they are unknown, unseen, and unexpected, yet they can cause dynamic change.

One tipping point was the accumulated acts of abuse by Tunisian authorities against the poor. Millions suffered but one acted, he could take no more. Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, an impoverished Tunisian market vendor set himself on fire on 17 December, 2010 at police brutality and injustice after they arrested and beat him and confiscated his small vending business. He later died on the 4th January 2011.It was an incident that enflamed not only Tunisia and overthrew the dictator President Ben Ali, but it enflamed the entire Middle East.

His death was the spark that ignited the firestorm that brought Libya to civil war and the overthrow of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. The same wave of unrest and the desire for freedom from oppression plunged Syria into the on-going Civil war. The same desire for freedom spread to Egypt and caused protests and civil unrest that toppled president Hosni Mubarak and carried the Muslim Brotherhood to political power.

Another tipping point has been reached in India, one brutal rape too many occurred and the indifference of the authorities to sexual abuse of women caused the outbreak of protests and demonstrations after the rape and murder of a 23 year-old student on her way home on a bus in New Delhi, India last 16th December.

She was brutally gang-raped by five men and a teenager on the bus and so savage was the sexual assault that the student died from her extensive injuries. It was a tipping point. After years of growing sexual assaults on women ignored by police and the judiciary, this one incident ignited nation-wide protests that turned violent and one policeman was killed. The government fears it will be ousted.

The demonstrations, now peaceful, continue to keep pressure on the Indian government to protect women and bring the rapists to justice and get convictions. The degradation of women and child rape are heinous crimes that are so common world-wide that they are acts considered by some authorities as routine as if rape is what men do by some kind of right or entitlement. But the Indians reached the tipping point, enough was enough, they could not take it any longer and exploded in anger at the indifference and callousness of the male dominated system that tolerated such impunity.

The respected influential leader of the Indian ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, saying that as a mother and a woman, she shared their anguish and understood their anger.  “Your voice has been heard,” Gandhi said. “It deepens our determination to battle the pervasive and the shameful social attitudes that allow men to rape and molest women with such impunity.” Similar demonstrations have also begun in Nepal.

In the Philippines, there are many cases of child rape and sexual abuse that are considered as almost trivial by some officials. In one non-government organization (NGO) protecting children, there are 127 cases of child rape languishing without justice. Some victims are as young as 6 years-old and most cases have been archived and dismissed despite powerful evidence or delayed for many years with endless postponements or the non-apprehension of the rapist. One case took eight years to end. The judges that allow such delaying tactics to succeed deny justice to the child who cannot attend the trial for so many years. Then the case against her rapist is dismissed, he walks free all according to plan.

One of every four children world-wide are said to be victims of child abuse, most go unreported and unknown. This column has called for justice in the rape and murder of the 6 year old Mykie Prado in Aklan but the abuser is protected and enjoys impunity.

Society here has not reached the tipping point where the full extent of the abuse will become known and there will be nation-wide reaction and protest. While there are civic groups demanding more action to protect the children from the rapists and  paedophiles, foreigners and locals alike, and do justice, little change is likely, until the tipping point. We all have to keep advocating and educating the public on the rights of women and children. The tipping point will come. [end]


(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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