Is India world’s most dangerous country for women?

In 2018, Thomson Reuters Foundation has proclaimed India as the most dangerous country for women. This proclamation is based on an opinion poll, rather than any reports or data. Thomson Reuters is the world’s biggest news network based in London. Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, child trafficking, corruption and climate change. Reuters has used a flawed methodology to arrive at this claim. The ranking is based on a perception poll. The poll surveyed 548 experts on six different indices- healthcare, sexual and non-sexual violence, human trafficking, discrimination and cultural traditions. The results are not derived from any kind of data and are solely based on inherently subjective opinions. So, based on these six different indices, they have given the final ranking of the world’s most dangerous country for women. And according to these experts perception, India has been ranked number one in 2018, Afghanistan and Syria in second and third place, Somalia is in fourth place and Saudi Arabia is in fifth place. In 2011, when a similar poll was last conducted, India ranked fourth behind Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan. According to 2018 report of this foundation, India is ranking number one at sexual violence, human trafficking, culture and religion against women. Sexual violence includes rape as a weapon of war, domestic rape, rape by stranger, sexual harassment etc. It is also the most dangerous country in the world for cultural traditions that impact women, the survey found, citing acid attacks, female genital mutilation, child marriage, female foeticide and physical abuse. Child marriage is also a very big issue in India, 27 percent of the Indian girls are married before the age of eighteen. Human trafficking includes servitude, forced labour, forced marriage and sexual slavery etc. India is ranking number three at discrimination which includes discrimination against women in the daily life like in education, in job, lack of access to adequate nutrition, property or inheritance rights etc. it is at number four for health access and is ranking number three at non-sexual violence. Health includes maternal mortality, lack of access to healthcare, lack of control over reproductive health and HIV/AIDS whereas forms of domestic physical and mental abuse, conflict-related violence comes under non-sexual violence.      

Now the question is how credible and truthful is this? About the credibility, Thomson Reuters Foundation is a very credible organisation. It has received many awards like Asian environmental Journalism Award in 2015 for excellent environmental reporting. They have also received the United Nations foundation prize. Since, it has started this foundation has provided training to journalists in more than 170 countries. It’s a reputed organisation hence I don’t feel that there will be any sense in assuming that it would be biased here.

There is a question here, why is there a perception based survey and why not the reports are made on the basis of data and statistics? As world’s most dangerous country for women is a very important topic and it would be better to decide on the basis of data and statistics. But there is an important point is that when it comes to crime then data and statistics do not make sense especially when it’s about comparing different countries or states. For example, Kerala has the highest crime rate in comparison with the other states but that doesn’t mean when we go there we will find more violence. In fact it’s the highest crime rate because people are reporting these cases and hence Kerala comes under one of the safest states. If we compare different countries based on the crime statistics then we would never know how many crimes are being reported in actual. So if we are comparing data and statistics of sexual violence, human trafficking and crime against women across the world then we will find a lot of irregularity. If we look at the European countries like Sweden, there the crime rate against women is the highest that doesn’t mean that it’s the dangerous country for women. In fact it’s the opposite as people are reporting there. Hence, when we talk about the topic like world’s most dangerous country for women then taking expert’s thoughts into account is a good idea.

How will we know that how many reports are not registered or are not considered by the police? This we can never get to know actually. We can never find out the actual figure. Because it’s not getting reported or written hence on what basis can they be considered? Therefore, taking survey is the best option. In 2017, Indian National Bar association took up a survey to realise that 70 percent of Indian women are afraid of registering their sexual harassment cases. Thus, here we can figure out how many women in India are afraid of reporting, there will be many cases which would have been denied by the police. So, basically we cannot be 100 percent sure to say whether India deserves to be on the first rank or not. However, this expert’s poll has some limitations, information on their designation, credentials, country of expertise or qualifications is not available thus reliability is an issue. So, it’s not so transparent. But apart from these limitations, if we look at the other facts then this rank is somewhere correct. For example, Female foeticide which is a related criterion on the basis of which this consensus could be drawn then India is the fourth most worst country according to 2016 data. This can be found out by looking at the sex ratio at birth which is 112 males to 100 females. This is such a worst ratio at birth and this is a recorded data. So, this is a statistical data and not based on perception. It’s a proper data of female foeticide and if we look at the data of Syria then it is 106:100 birth sex ratio, Afghanistan has 104:100 and Somalia has 102:100. Thus, India has worst birth sex ratio than all of these countries. Top 3 countries that rank worst than India is Liechtenstein, China and Armenia but there are not those problems which are there in India as the crime against women. Hence, India’s rank goes at the highest here. One more statistical data is Dowry related death, according to National Crime Bureau of our country, every year more than 8,000 women dies due to dowry.

For this, Thomson Reuters Organisation’s CEO has given the solution in three words: “Education, Empowerment and Enforcement”. It means to educate the girls, empower them and enforce the laws made here correctly. Indeed India is the fastest growing economy in the world and India is improving day by day such as its fight against poverty and also for empowerment. Moreover, now greater numbers of women are coming out, they are raising their voice against injustice, speaking about the brutalities they are facing in everyday life and this is a positive sign for India. So, some changes have come but more changes are still required. So, India has much potential and can make more improvements to reduce crime against women folk in Indian society.     

Archana Jyoti
Archana Jyoti
Student of M.A. Politics and International Relations , Pondicherry University