The bishops' plea comes amid a national outcry over the rape and murder of a student on a bus

In the wake of the national outcry over the gang rape and death of a paramedical student and reports of rapes from across the country, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has called for “comprehensive laws and effective measures to ensure the security and safety of women”.

“Instances of sexual violence against women and children have increased [at] an alarming rate, the most shockingly being the sexual gang rape and murder of a young medical student in the capital city of Delhi,” the bishops said in a statement.

“This dastardly act of violence had evoked unprecedented protest … cutting across all barriers,” they said.

The 23-year-old medical student died in a Singapore hospital to which she was airlifted when her condition worsened. She was gang raped and tortured on December 16 by five men and a teenager in a private bus.

The young woman and her boyfriend had boarded the bus after its staff offered them a lift at a bus stop. The gang rape led to massive protests in New Delhi and other cities.

“This is not an isolated incident. Hundreds of rape cases are being reported every day across the nation. …This is indeed a very alarming situation,” said the bishops.

“This [increasing sexual violence] shows that [the] essence of humanity has eroded badly in our country,” Bishop Albert D’Souza of Agra, secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, told the American Catholic News Service.

“Social norms are being eroded under the commercialisation of media that is projecting woman as a commodity,” Bishop D’Souza said.

While welcoming the strong and stringent measures the government has initiated to curb the violence against women and children, bishops cautioned that “this awakening should not be momentary”.

A judicial commission appointed by the federal government to reform rape laws emphasised the role of value education through family, school and religions.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly has begun offering sex education as part of catechism classes. An archdiocesan official said that several dioceses had already shown interest and asked for information about the sex education module that has been introduced to eighth-grade [13-and 14-year-old] students this year.

Bishop D’Souza said that the “Church should not miss opportunities to educate adolescent group[s] on sex”.

“The family should be the first classroom for this. The parents have a big duty to educate the children on sex and conjugal life,” he added.