A popular rebellion against impunity manifested itself in 2012, after a series of grotesque crimes against the vulnerable. In other years, people rose up against the impunity of the state and its officials — a theme of the Arab Spring. In the year just ended, tens of thousands of protesters against a Taliban shooting in Pakistan and a gang rape in India signaled a broad movement against the cultural norms and state policies that promote impunity for crimes against girls and women. In Canada, the norms of a free and open Internet that bullies hide behind came under sustained attack.
Three girls and women victimized in brutal and callous ways provided touchstones of universal power. Just as more people understand the Holocaust through Anne Frank's diary than perhaps any other source, the emergence in 2012 of three individuals whose lives of promise were cut short, in two cases, and nearly ended in a third, moved large numbers of people to action.
Resisting impunity meant pushing government and less visible targets — the social foundations of impunity. In Canada, reaching those who join in ostracism is a complex task; laws holding bystanders to account are on the way. In India, all parties have fielded candidates charged with crimes against women, a measure of the crimes' acceptance.
As in the Arab Spring, victory is far from assured. And there is a battleground in its early days — a battle against the United States gun culture, and the laws (or lack thereof) that support it. The massacre of 20 children and six educators at a Connecticut elementary school, like the crimes against these two girls and woman, was so outrageous it made silence seem like complicity.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto