The news: Indian police are applauding one teenager who, faced with an unimaginable situation, responded with courage that has inspired a nation plagued by high-profile incidents of violence against women
The unnamed teen, believed to be around 17 or 18 years old, took the law into her own hands on July 2 in the Madhepura district in the Bihar state when, "armed with a recording device and a knife," she severed the penis of her attacker.
The details: According to the Times of India, on July 1, the teen was taken to see her uncle, a Tantrist who claims to have supernatural powers. The uncle brought the girl to a private room and sexually assaulted her.
The following day, the uncle requested that the teen come to his home, where she arrived with her knife in tow. She allegedly recorded the incident on her cell phone, and as the uncle tried to rape her again, she responded by severing his penis.
After local police were alerted to the attack, they decided not to press charges against the teen. "We should applaud her bravery and courage," Bihar police official AK Singh told the Independent.
The uncle is still at large.
India's sexual violence problem: This particular triumph comes after a string of high-profile rape cases in India. In 2013, anti-rape laws were reformed after a 23-year-old woman was fatally gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi. The government responded with harsher penalties for rape; now it is punishable by death.
Despite new reforms in the legal system, women still live with sexual violence in all sectors of society, in India and around the world. Someone is raped in India every 22 minutes, and in 2012 alone there were 24,923 reported cases. Somewhere between 1% and 10% of rape cases actually get reported, so that number is on the conservative side.
Poverty and a deep-rooted caste system continue to lead men to target young women sexually. But this teen's courage may show other Indian women that they don't need to take abuse lying down. Of course, no one is advocating for violence, of any kind. The solution to India's ongoing violence against women problem is not to arm all Indian females with knives, nor is it to tell women to drink less, wear longer skirts or walk home in groups. Instead, one hopes that this young woman's bravery will help push the dialogue forward, rallying support for changes that will continue to beef up India's legal protections while at the same time helping to change a culture that maintains such a strong gender-based power imbalance. That's the type of empowerment we can all get behind.