After an international survey reported that India is the most dangerous country in the world for women, the country’s Minister for Women and Child Development has rejected the survey. India and its neighbour Pakistan have both been listed as dangerous nations for women – both having witnessed gruesome rapes and brutal killings of women in the recent past.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation released a survey of 550 experts on women’s issues, finding India to be the most dangerous nation for sexual violence against women with at least four rape cases an hour. The global #MeToo movement prompted the survey, which was last undertaken in 2011 – with India featuring among the top 10 nations then, but not on top.
Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has written to Thomson Reuters Foundation asking why the ministry was not consulted for the report.
A day earlier, the National Commission for Women (NCW), the apex body with the mandate of protecting and promoting the interests of women in India, rejected the survey saying the number of people surveyed could in no way reflect the state of affairs in a country of 1.3 billion people. It also said that India is far ahead of a number of countries in terms of women’s rights.
“The Commission rejects the survey in question. For a nation as big as India, with a population of approximately 1.3 billion, the sample size of the survey is not representative of the country as a whole,” the NCW has said in a statement.
“Women in India are aware of their legal rights and the procedure and method of access to the legal system more than ever before. Some of the countries that have been ranked after India have women who are not even allowed to speak in public,” NCW acting chairperson Rekha Sharma added.
According to the survey, women in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Saudi Arabia are far safer than in India. Several people in India across the board have questioned the methodology of the survey and see this as an attempt to defame the country.
Nine of the 10 countries on the list were from Asia, the Middle East or Africa. At number 10 was the United States, the only Western country to be included, following the furore over the #MeToo movement. The world’s 10 most dangerous countries for women are as follows: India, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Nigeria and United States.
India’s Rape Statistics
Most dangerous country for women in the world or not, India has for long grappled with the issue of sexual violence and crimes against women.
Tougher anti-rape laws were framed after the Nirbhaya gangrape awarding life term or death to rapists but the gory statistics haven’t showed a downward slide. Nirbhaya (the brave one), was gangraped on a moving a bus in New Delhi in December 2012. Indian laws do not allow naming of rape victims.
According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau that collates annual data on crime there is a jump in crimes by 2.9 per cent against women – even in the post-Nirbhaya phase when India decided to speak out, for the first time, against the culture of rape.
In 2016, India recorded 106 rapes a day. A large number of those raped were girls in the age-group of 0 to 12 years. In 94.6 per cent of cases offenders were known to the victims.
Of the 3,38,954 crimes against women registered in 2016, 38,947 were rapes and 2,167 gangrapes. Of these, 2,60,304 cases of crimes against women were sent for trial in courts in 2016, and conviction secured in 23,094 cases.
The Association for Democratic Reforms, a non-profit watchdog for electoral reforms, in a 2017 report revealed that of the 4,852 election affidavits it studied it found that three lawmakers and 48 legislators faced cases of crimes against women.
The numbers unfortunately reflect only the registered cases in patriarchal and misogynist India where rape is seen as a woman’s shame.
This year the brutal rape and cold murder of an eight-year-old Muslim shepherd girl, allegedly to drive her nordic tribe out, and of an 18-year-old girl, allegedly by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator, drove Indians to the streets who are sick of the rising crimes against women.
The eight-year-old was trapped as she was grazing the family horses in Kathua village in the country’s north in January. She was drugged and raped inside a Hindu temple for a week by eight men, including the caretaker of the temple, two policemen and a minor boy. She was eventually killed with a rock.
The other case that hit headlines was of an 18-year-old, hailing from India’s most populous and politically important state – Uttar Pradesh. She was allegedly raped by a BJP legislator, his brother and accomplices in June 2017.
Her rape, too, would have gone unnoticed and unregistered, but for her attempt to suicide in April 8 after her father’s death in police custody.
A majority of crimes against women remain unregistered because of the stigma attached to reporting rapes and sexual crimes. More often than not women are blamed for the rape – accused of dressing inappropriately and inviting the male gaze.
How ingrained this malaise is in Indian society can be gauged by the fact that politicians have gone on record dissmissing rapes as boyish mistakes or suggesting raped women be hanged.
The release of the report comes amid mounting public outrage in India, where a series of high-profile rape cases, including two unrelated attacks on girls aged 16 and eight, have forced the issue of sexual violence back onto the national agenda.
“India has shown utter disregard and disrespect for women … rape, marital rapes, sexual assault and harassment, female infanticide has gone unabated,” Manjunath Gangadhara, an official at the Karnataka state government in southwest India, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The (world’s) fastest growing economy and leader in space and technology is shamed for violence committed against women,” added Gangadhara.
The issue of sexual violence was on the electoral agenda when Narendra Modi was campaigning to be Prime Minister in 2014.
With India going to polls next year, Modi spoke out against sexual violence in April asserting that rape “is a matter of great concern for the country”. This was followed by an executive order by his Cabinet introducing the death penalty for rapists of children under the age of 12.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi called out to the PM on Twitter after the report was made public.
“While our PM tiptoes around his garden making Yoga videos, India leads Afghanistan, Syria & Saudi Arabia in rape & violence against women,” Gandhi tweeted.
Not a day goes when crime against women do not make headlines in India. Earlier this week, an army officer’s wife was crushed to death by a major in the army. Ironically, the victim, a finalist at an international beauty contest, had spoken out against violence against women at the pageant.