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Land of Goddesses remain dangerous for women
By Ragini Shankar Sinha



Despite significant economic growth and education among women, globally gender experts view India as a risky place for women to live. And, many Indian women agree to this perception.

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Acid attack is the new form of violence against women

From the President of India to the Chairperson of the ruling alliance, India has slowly fashioned itself as a country with growing women power. But does that power really percolate down up to the village level and make India an ideal country for women to live? Definitely not, says a recent survey report launched by UK-based Thompson Reuters Foundation on safety of women. According to the survey, India ranks at the bottom, for being judged as the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women.

In the survey India shares bottom space with war-ravaged Afghanistan, rape capital Congo and is ranked worse than war-torn Somalia because of high occurrence of female foeticide, infanticide and human trafficking. India’s economic progress does no good to the status of women; leave alone those who are even denied right to be born.

The poll conducted among 213 gender experts who ranked countries on their overall perception of danger, as well as by six key categories of risks - health, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, harmful practices rooted in culture, tradition or religion, lack of access to economic resources and human trafficking.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation explained why it ranked India so low on the list. The main reasons were female foeticide, infanticide and human trafficking.

This poor ranking has shocked many people in India. While some have termed it as typical western exaggeration of social problems in India, some others feel India is indeed a dangerous country for women. To know the reaction of women from various walks of life, d-sector talked to some of them.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation explained why it ranked India so low on the list. The main reasons were female foeticide, infanticide and human trafficking.

Jaya Jaitley, former President of Samata Party blames widespread patriarchy as one of the reasons of deteriorating condition of women in India. She says the domination is more than what we see and often women are crushed by domestic violence, atrocities and cruel behaviour if rigid traditions are not followed by them.

“Skewed sex ratio, female foeticide and child marriages are just signs of poor status of women in India”, says Purba, a journalist with an English business magazine.

“Increasing rapes and eve-teasing incidents just confirm the fact that although India is progressing economically it has deteriorated in terms of being a civilised society. Hope it doesn't become a land of goons before it becomes rich”, she adds.

However, Prianca Arora, who works as a communication analyst with a Corporate Executive Board does not fully agree with the report and considers it to be grossly exaggerated. “I am very comfortable when I get back home even if it is late at night. Let us not forget that the report talks about whole nation which is 70 per cent rural. So I deduce that the awareness needs to be enhanced in order to curb crime against women.”

The declining gender ratio is another major reason which put India in risky nation category. Domestic violence, caste discrimination, rape, sexual harassment, acid attacks and dowry deaths are varied forms of crimes against women in India.

Few months ago, a study by South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring found that every 34 minutes a woman was raped and every 26 minutes a woman was harassed in the country.

Be it the capital Delhi or the rest of country, crimes against women have become a staple headline for newspapers notwithstanding the fact that most of such crimes remain unreported and unnoticed.

“Lack of shame and guilt is a prime reason as to why a man is not afraid of misbehaving with a woman. Women do not step out and express their grievances and it is also a reason why criminal acts against women go unnoticed”, says Ms. Jaitely.

“More than behavioural awareness amongst men, women should be aware of their rights. Also the poor execution of law and order machinery emboldens the perverts which leads to frequent crimes against women”, says Kamini Jaiswal, a leading lawyer at the Supreme Court of India.

Poor access to healthcare, education, justice, finances etc make condition of Indian woman much worse than reported by the reports and surveys.

“I do not know about the world but since when I have had little understanding of world, I have always seen and suffered oppression, pain and have faced threat to my modesty”, says Tabassum who works in east Delhi as a domestic help.

“I think education will enable my daughters to fight this inequality and thus I am very adamant on their education”, adds Tabassum.

“Distorted value system is showing us all the cruel colours of life. We still have a long way to go when it comes to following ethics and values towards women as preached by our scriptures. I won't say we are worse than Somalia or Afghanistan but we are on the same track”, says Dr. Sunita, a professor at Delhi University.

Ragini Shankar Sinha  |  ragini@d-sector.org

Ragini Shankar Sinha is a reporter with d-sector.org.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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