Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 by
Also click here for short video of Young Women fighting back
The United States (U.S.) First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Secretary of State, John Kerry, posthumously presented 23-year-old Delhi gang rape victim ‘Nirbhaya’ the International “Women of Courage” Award for “inspiring people to work together to end violence against women in India and around the world.”
This is a photo often used to represent the young woman. Her real photo has yet to be released.
When announcing her selection for the award, the State Department emphasized that: “For millions of Indian women, her personal ordeal, perseverance to fight for justice, and her family’s continued bravery is helping to lift the stigma and vulnerability that drive violence against women.”
It added: “In the wake of her death just two weeks after the attack, India’s civil society began advocating heavily for legislation and social programs to stem gender-based violence in all its forms and to ensure higher rape conviction rates and gender-sensitive law enforcement and justice systems.”
In the hospital, the young woman recorded two police statements about her gang rape and demanded justice against her aggressors. The grassroots movements for change triggered by her suffering has pressured the Indian government to introduce stronger sexual assault legislation, ensuring police reforms and creating five fast-track courts in the capital to handle crimes against women.
Just before presenting the award to India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Nirupama Rao, Kerry invited the audience to observe a moment of silence for ‘Nirbhaya,’ whom he described as “brave and fearless.” In his speech, Kerry stressed: “Her bravery inspired millions of women and men to come together with a simple message — ‘No more.’” He added: “No more looking the other way when gender-based violence happens. No more stigma against victims or survivors.”
While none of the young woman’s family members were present at the ceremony, her parents sent a short note delivered by Kerry: “We never imagined that the girl we thought was our daughter would one day be the daughter of the entire world. While her end was horrendous, her case is imparting strength to all women to fight and to improve the system. Women in India and the rest of the world refuse to be stigmatized and will not keep silent any more.” The young girl’s family will receive the award in Delhi.
The Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award annually recognizes women around the world who demonstrate exceptional courage and leadership in promoting women’s rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk. Since its establishment in 2007, 67 women from 45 countries have been granted the award.
Among the other eight recipients of this year’s award are Tsering Woesern, a Tibetan blogger and poet, who, through her work, addresses protests and human rights conditions of Tibetan citizens, although she under constant government surveillance. Another recipient was Malalai Bahaduri, the First Sergeant in the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan’s National Interdiction Unit (NIU), who continues to receive death threats and physical abuse from her uncle, who broke her nose after discovering her career choice.
While originally also chosen to receive the award for protesting against the “virginity tests” the Egyptian military obliged female protesters to undergo during the Arab Spring movement, activist Samira Ibrahim was withdrawn from the winner’s list. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland acknowledged the young Egyptian woman’s merits: “As you may recall, she was detained, she was subject to real police violence. Not only did she speak out about that, but she also became a real leader in her country in trying to address gender-based violence and other human rights abuses.”
Nevertheless, Nuland added that, after an investigation, the State Department would no longer be giving Ibrahim the award, because some of her public statement were considered inappropriate and not in accordance to U.S. values. According to Nuland, four questionable tweets had been found on Ms. Ibrahim’s account, “two of which were anti-Semitic, two of which celebrated terrorism.”
One of the controversial Tweets was posted on July 18, 2012, when, after five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed in a suicide bombing attack, Ibrahim allegedly tweeted: ‘An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news.’” While initially denying the allegations, claiming that her account had been hacked, she now takes responsibility and stands by her posts. Ibrahim retorted in Arabic on Twitter: “I refuse to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America regarding my previous anti-Zionist statements under pressure from American government (so) therefore they withdrew the award.”
After the ceremony, the award recipients will travel to cities across U.S. to engage local communities through an International Visitor Leadership Program. They will reconvene in San Diego to discuss their visit and ways to jointly work on improving the lives of women and girls around the world.
Related stories: Video of courageous young women fighting successfully for women’s rights
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