Medieval treatment


Rape is a horrific crime. The added scourge faced by its victims in other cultures highlights the continued vulnerability of women.

In India, a woman who couldn’t pay the fine levied against her for accepting the marriage proposal of a man from another village was gang-raped as punishment. The assault was ordered by the village chief, who participated in it with at least a dozen villagers.

She was warned not to report the outrage under threat of death. But she told authorities, and the village chief and his co-rapists were arrested. They could serve as long as 20 years in prison.

After several high-profile rape cases in India, millions of men and women protested. Special courts were created to prosecute the crimes; now police, perpetrators, and citizens know the assaults will be taken seriously by the law.

A case in Morocco was different. Two years ago, a 16-year-old girl who was raped and forced to marry her assailant killed herself. Under the law, a man convicted of rape who married his underage victim could avoid punishment.

Last month, Morocco’s parliament removed the escape clause and left in place a prison term of one to five years. But in Morocco, India, and elsewhere, more reform and less medieval thinking about rape still are needed.