They called her Braveheart, a name that symbolizes a fighter. People have also called her Fearless and India’s Daughter.  Due to Indian law, the real name of a rape victim is withheld from the press. For some reason the name Braveheart seemed to stick.

Months after her tragic, horrifying death Delhi’s Braveheart continues to tear away at Indian society and many Indians’ cry for change. Braveheart’s December 16th gang rape on a moving bus has gained worldwide attention, outrage and grief. Further high-profile rapes such as the recent rape of a Swiss and American tourist have continued to push the not so pretty truth about the status of women in India into the forefront. Meanwhile, India’s tourist industry has been reeling with a 35 % decline in female tourists for the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year (Source: Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India).  It is evident that foreign women travelers are concerned about the dangers of traveling to a place with such a tarnished reputation for women’s rights and safety.

In a country where a rape is reported every 21 minutes, and gruesome rapes of young children are inundating the news, you would think that it would be enough to push for societal and governmental change. Yet has anything really truly changed for the millions of women in India and around the world who are faced with violence, discrimination, harassment, intimidation, neglect and unworthiness every single day of their lives?

Indian Women in Delhi

A recent trip to India along with the frightening estimate published this week from the World Health Organization (WHO) that “a third of women worldwide suffer domestic or sexual abuse” has got me thinking and caused me to do some research. Here are some of the tragic facts I found:

  • Crimes against women in India are rising. Per a recent article in the BBC, “With more than 24,000 reported cases in 2011, rape registered a 9.2% rise over the previous year. More than half of the victims were aged between 18 and 30. More disturbingly, the offenders were known to their victims in more than 94% of the cases. Delhi accounted for over 17% of the total number of rape cases in the country”.
  • In India alone, a rape is estimated to occur every 21 minutes and many go unreported. (Source: BBC)
  • According to the United Nations, more than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.
  • 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner (Recent findings by WHO).
  • The highest rate of domestic violence against women is in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia: 37% of women experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lifetimes. (Source: WHO)
  • Even here in Minnesota, women have suffered from violence and abuse. According to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, since 2000 271 women have been killed by a former or current husband or boyfriend. (Source: Star Tribune).
Delhi metro

Now the Delhi metro offers a “women’s only” car. After an extremely uncomfortable hour-long ride in the co-ed car, where there were hardly any women, we realized our mistake.


A kind Indian man informed us of the “Women Only Car” where there were no wandering unpleasant stares or feelings of being unsafe.

The facts are an ugly reminder that the status of women worldwide needs to change. In India alone, women’s rights are still an uphill battle as the status of women is deeply engrained in India’s long culture and history of patriarchy and misogyny. Male babies remain the sex of choice and female fetuses are still aborted. Girls are less likely to go to school than boys, often marry young and often suffer abuse, neglect and a life of poverty.

Per the beautiful, powerful documentary “Girl Rising” (10×10), there are millions of girls and women in the developing world whose potential remains untapped. Worldwide, there are 66 million girls out of school. 14 million girls under the age of 18 will be married just this year, which is 38,000 girls married today and 13 girls married in the last 30 seconds. More disturbing is that the number one cause of death for girls age 15-19 is childbirth. These unsettling facts must change in order to have a more equitable world.

There is so much hope. Hope for a brighter future for not only the girls and women of the world, but society as a whole. Years of oppression aren’t going to fade away easily. It will take time. Yet there is hope that we will someday live in a world where all human beings are treated as equals, and women will have the same rights and opportunities as men.

Girls learning in Protsahan

Girls living in the poorest slums of Delhi are learning at Protsahan’s school.


    1. Yes, they are crazy aren’t they. Have you seen “Girl Rising” yet? That is one powerful documentary. I always feel so comfortable when I travel but I’ve got to remind myself to be careful and on guard. I actually felt much less safe in Honduras than India.

    1. Thanks for the catch! I forgot to include the “Since 2000….271 women in Minnesota have been killed”. I went back and added it for clarification.

  1. Wow, fantastic article. A real eye-opener.

    (I know it’s technically a “blog post” but you write so well and it’s so informative, article is fitting and more of a compliment!)

    1. Thank you! Yes it is my own blog yet I do a far amount of research on my posts, especially when they are regarding social good and human rights. 🙂

  2. A very powerful post, Nicole. The statistics are astounding and somewhat horrific. I believe that education is the key and after education, providing opportunities for women. The women’s only transportation is a small way to help make the lives of the women better. Keep exposing the injustices in the world. We need your insight and your dedication! 🙂

    1. Yes so true. Cultures really need to shift in some of these countries too. I’ve found in so many parts of the world that women are treated as the lesser sex. It has helped being a foreign woman in those countries yet it still irks me. How do you find the treatment of women in Nicaragua? In Guatemala there is a lot of violence against women there.

  3. Those are very eye-opening and sobering facts. I arrived in Delhi just weeks after Braveheart’s tragedy, and I admit it placed an added sense of fear in me, traveling as a solo female. Many told me I was stupid for going, and perhaps I was. I couch surfed with locals, many of them men. I rode in shared taxis. I befriended locals everywhere I went, and that fear in the back of my mind only subsided after a month of being there, but it never fully left. In all honesty, I had no idea rape was happening every 21 minutes. Now, I feel lucky. I thought every week, for sure, but had I known that terrible fact, my fear would have been amplified, I’m sure.
    India is such a wonderful, fascinating place, it’s such a shame they’re scaring tourism away and blowing a shot at using it to improve their economy. I wish there were an easy way to make it stop. There is no excuse for rape, and it’s ludicrous that they’ve managed to make some women feel as though it was her fault. Oh, it makes me sick.

    1. Yes they are scary but I still have to admit that I felt safer in India than I have in parts of Central America. I also think it is important to remember sad as it is how prevalent rape is even in the US. I know many who have been date raped in high school and college and I believe it happens way too much. I do find the facts frightening in India but believe it is a worldwide problem and as a women you need to be careful where ever you go. As for the American tourist who was raped in India, I am in no means blaming here but I would never ever get in a truck at 2 in the morning in any country even in my own hometown with strange men. That is just common sense. But she of course she never have been raped. It is a scary world out there but it shouldn’t stop you from exploring it. 🙂

      1. Agreed. Rape is prevalent everywhere, far too often. It’s a sad fact of humanity that just shakes me every time I think of it. I also know American girls who have been raped and it makes me wonder why there are so many people in this world who can do that, or think they have a right to do it. But you’re right. We can’t let fear get in the way of our curiosity. I like to think at least 95% of the world’s population are good hearted people!

      2. That is the way to think Jessica! Me too! But the older I get the more I begin to realize that there are a lot of bad people out there too. Sad, but true. 🙂

  4. I remember hearing the news reports about Braveheart and the two tourists. It made my heart stop. And the stats make it even scarier. I would love to see a world where women don’t have to be afraid because rape happens all over the world.

  5. Here is the USA we are supposed to be one of the most educated nations in the world and look at our stats about crimes involving women. It is going to take a change of the minds, hearts and souls to bring about REAL change.

  6. Until the Dec 16 gang rape, I had no idea that this was such a tragic occurrence in India. Thank you for bringing these issues into the forefront Nicole.

    1. Yes, sadly many parts of the world are like this and even here in the US I think of all the date rape and abuse women withstand. It is a global issue and hopefully someday life will be easier for girls and women.

    1. Thanks so much! Sorry for the delay in responding but we were on vacation! I would love to learn more about Plan International and their campaign. I’ll have to look into it! 🙂

  7. Eye-opening stats and post Nicole but I was surprised that Central America wasn’t up there. As you mentioned, violence is a huge problem in Guatemala. NGOs there are trying to educate both men and women, especially in indigenous communities where domestic violence is so common, which will hopefully reduce numbers of abuses.

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