India (MNN) — New legislation is a step away from widening the scope of sexual violence and increasing punishments in India.
Late last week, a new law passed through India's Parliament. It makes stalking, voyeurism, and acid attacks a crime, and also allows judges to issue the death penalty to repeat offenders or rape attacks that lead to the victim's death.
According to officials, it's the harshest legal action to come against sexual violence in India so far.
"These new reports that we're hearing and these new laws are one more indicator that God is at work, changing India for the better," says Dave Stravers, President of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India.
"For the first time, there seems to be an outcry against this, whereas in years past, the situation was just accepted by everyone that that's just the way it is and nothing can really change."
Early last month, we spoke with Stravers following India's presidential approval of the law. Now that the decree has passed through Parliament, the only thing keeping it from becoming official is President Pranab Mukherjee's signature.
Pray that the new law will protect women from sexual attacks.
"It's positive that India is trying to bring their criminal laws into a place where the rights of women are protected and the abuse of women is punished," says Stravers.
However, "There is a negative side to this, from my perspective."
He notes the legal push only came after the Dec. 16 attack hit global headlines and India received tremendous pressure from the international community. Stravers says it'll take more than a law to change culture.
"Women are just summarily abused without any consequences for people. That's a worldview," he explains. "The culture of India is based on some value systems that are very far-removed from the Judeo-Christian ethic–the Scriptural foundation that we have in the West.
"Women in the Bible are recognized as [being] created in the image of God, having their own dignity and their own place in creation. In India and many other places of the world, this simply is not the case."
Stravers says worthlessness and feeling "sub-human" dominates the self-image of most Indian women. Lives change as a result of introducing women to Christ's love through Adult Literacy Classes, he says.
"When a woman learns to read and write, she suddenly is empowered," explains Stravers. "She can read the contract that she's asked to sign to borrow money, she can read the sign on the bus that tells where she's going, and she can make change in the marketplace to know if someone is cheating her."
Moms who graduate from Mission India's literacy courses pass along a sense of self-worth and Scriptural value to their daughters. They also enroll their girls in school–an atypical action for most parents in India.
"They're not considered worthy of it, so we're teaching those values, even as we teach people that the Lord Jesus Christ loves them," Stravers says.
As women young and old find new identity and purpose, they start carrying themselves with dignity. Families and neighbors see the change and pretty soon, entire villages are transformed.
"This is the way God changes a country: not through laws, but through people's hearts," says Stravers.
Pray that more lives will be transformed through this literacy program. You can bring a woman from 0 to a 5th grade reading level with a one-time $30 investment.
"Pray that people will continue to value literacy," requests Stravers. "Learning to read is a door-opener into villages that otherwise would be closed to Gospel witness."
Pray that many people will come to Christ as the Gospel spreads in India.
"India's very open to the Good News right now," says Stravers. "People all over India, for the first time, are open to this message.
"For centuries this nation, which is soon to be the most-populous nation on Earth, has been very closed to the Gospel. And now, within our lifetime, the Holy Spirit is working in all the different villages and cities of India to bring about change."