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Update From the Field

Did you hear about the 16-year old Kolkata girl who was gang raped? Hours after reporting the assault to the police the same gang raped her again as punishment. Steadfast in her determination to report the crime, they came again a few days later, pulled her from her home, doused her in kerosene and set her aflame. She died 8 days later on New Year's Day 2014, pregnant by one of her rapists.

After this pitstop in Doha, I am on my way to the heart of the "Rape Capital of the World" (after the Congo) with PROOF:Media for Social Justice and its Executive Director, Leora Kahn. PROOF works at the request of, and in cooperation with local not-for-profits to educate populations around the world about the legacy of rape. This legacy includes a second brutalization of the victim after the crime by a community and all-too-often a family who shun her as impure. It also includes a government that fails to prosecute perpetrators who continue to operate with impunity. And finally, of course, is the mental, emotional and physical state of the victim who is broken, alone, neglected, rejected and scorned by those around her.

Through the use of visual media and oral testimonies PROOF creates workshops and conferences to educate community leaders and policymakers to change their view of rape. If the mindset can be changed then laws will be enacted that will bring rapists to justice, and female victims will be treated with the same sensitivity and understanding that is afforded any other innocent victim of a violent crime.

One of India's leading women's rights campaigners said the impunity displayed by the Kolkata rapists and killers reflected the lack of justice in parts of the country where criminals have political patronage.

The police who first took the 16-year-old's rape report tried to convince her to forget it. Even though she could name her rapists the police did nothing. Members of the gang were politically connected. The girl's landlady heard her screams the night she was set on fire and ignored her cries for help. Her son was one of the rapists.