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The horrifying story of a young woman who died after being brutally gang raped in New Delhi is putting inequality in India in the international spotlight. The murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey is spawning widespread protests and a push for major change to the chauvinism and oppression Indian women face.

The need for change became even clearer this week, as political and spiritual leaders continued to openly blame women for inviting assault by being out in public after dark or wearing skirts. And on Wednesday, a lawyer for three of the five men accused of raping and torturing Jyoti Pandey said Pandey and her companion were solely responsible because they were out together after dark, but were not married. Wow.

The moral argument for addressing gender inequality in India is clear. And surprisingly, the economic argument is clear, as well. A survey of 2,500 women in several Indian cities revealed that nearly 82 percent of the women are leaving work earlier since the infamous Dec. 16 attack to avoid being away from home after sunset. The survey indicates that one in three women in Delhi reduced their work hours or quit their jobs altogether to avoid making themselves vulnerable to attacks. This drop in productivity will only add to India's poverty.

India is one of the world's poorest countries when measured by per-capita income, and the country's failure to invite women into the workplace and support them there is a major factor. Only 35 percent of Indian women work. Just think of the potential forfeited when millions of women opt out of the workplace.


Austin Bailey

Austin Bailey is a writer and editor for Heifer's World Ark magazine.