Thomson Reuters Foundation on June 26 published a poll on the basis of which it declared India as the world’s most dangerous country for women. Since the report has come out, there are varying views on whether the outcome of the report is justified or not. The poll ranks India ahead of Afghanistan and Syria which take the second and third position and even countries in serious humanitarian crisis like Somalia and Yemen which are on fourth and eighth positions respectively.

The survey took the opinion of a total 548 global experts on women’s issues. Of them, 43 are from India on specific parameters—healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, and human trafficking.

Flawed survey

Firstly, it is dangerous to conduct a poll on the basis of just under 550 views even if they are expert opinions. Experts state that Thomson Reuters report lacks proper methodology, research and data consideration. Anybody who knows India as a country, has lived here and seen the social structure would say that the country may have its flaws but it is not entirely unliveable for women. Be it cities or villages, women are joining the workforce in great numbers. According to the latest World Bank survey, participation of women in labour force in India is way above all the countries mentioned above at 25.4% even after all the “parameters” that Reuters poll has considered.

The Women and Child Development Ministry released its statement today on this poll and stated, “Reuters has used a flawed methodology to arrive at this claim. The ranking is based on a perception poll based on responses to simply six questions. The results are not derived from any kind of data and are solely based on inherently subjective opinions.”

It correctly pointed out the non-availability of the credentials of the Reuters’ “experts” and wrote in the statement, “Information on their designation, credentials, country of expertise or qualifications is not available thus reliability is an issue. The methodology given by the organisation also includes ‘policymakers’ as one of the respondents. However, no information or opinion has been sought from this Ministry regarding this poll.”

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Suneeta Dhar, who is a part Jagori which works extensively on gender, also said that this methodology is not rigorous enough and that perceptions are not combined with data. “I think that for surveys such as this we need a far better framing of the methodology.

I don’t think it is fair to do a comparative analysis of countries. We have women around the world who are speaking up for their rights and women have broken silence around social issues like domestic violence and harassment at public places etc.

‘Violence against women is a pervasive problem that affects all countries in the world,” said Dhar. At the same time, she also added that the country as a whole including law-enforcing agencies need to address issues of inclusivity, impunity and ensure effective responses to stem crimes against women.

As per NCRB data, police registered 38,947 cases of rape in the year 2016. In 2014 and 2015, it recorded 36,735 and 34,651 cases. The increase in reporting is a result of the favourable environment for women to access police authorities. Further, the rate of rape in India stands at 0.03 per 1000 population whereas US has reported a much higher figure of 1.2 rapes per 1000 population. India can thus not possibly be the worst in the world in terms of violence.

“I think that for surveys like this we need far better framing of methodology. I don’t think it is fair to do a comparatively analysis like this. We have women who are speaking up for their rights and women have broken silence around social issues like domestic violence and harassment at public places etc,”- Suneeta Dhar

Another organisation that has strictly rejected the Reuters poll is National Commission of Women. 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, it said in a press release.

NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma said, “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 the poll has ranked after India don’t even allow women to speak in public.”

Huge misrepresentation

Journalist Saba Naqvi also disagreed with the report’s claim and said that it is a huge “misrepresentation of the country”.

“India actually gives its women a lot of freedom to go around and enter various fields where they progress in the work system. Women enjoy personal freedom in big cities as well as small towns. So I don’t understand how India ranks as the topmost dangerous country in the world for women,” she said.

India may have its issues, like rightly pointed out by women and women’s organisations in this article, but the tag of being the most dangerous country for women in world is certainly misleading, to say the least.

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