A recent perception survey by global experts of the Thomson Reuters Foundation India has been ranked as the world’s most dangerous country for women. The reasons stated were the high risk of sexual violence, being forced into slave labour and rising sexual violence in the country. The Foundation reported India outranked even countries like Syria and Afghanistan which are currently at war. In 2011, the same survey ranked India as the fourth most dangerous country for women. Government data also reported cases of crimes against women in India rose by 83% between 2007 and 2016. The data showed that there were four cases of rape reported every hour.

The report sparked a series of debates whether this conclusion was warranted or not. We asked women leaders what they thought about the survey and its findings.

The country was appropriately ranked

“The findings of the Thomson Reuters survey that ranks India as the most dangerous country in the world for women doesn’t shock me at all. Just look at the parameters on which the countries have been judged–prevalence of sexual violence, social marginalisation, access to healthcare, among others–can the citizens, lawmakers and leaders of our nation claim that we DO NOT fit the bill of a dangerous country? It won’t be an overstatement to say that every woman in this country has faced abuse in some form or another. As an educated, independent woman living in the most progressive city in India, if I still fear for my safety walking down the street alone at night, one can imagine the plight of say, a Dalit woman in a village in UP who has to suffer rape and keep quiet lest the upper castes murder her family, or say an impoverished tribal girl from Odisha sold to a trafficker by her own family.

As an educated, independent woman living in the most progressive city in India, if I still fear for my safety walking down the street alone at night, one can imagine the plight of say, a Dalit woman in a village in UP.

This survey reflects our reality–the real and lived experiences of women in this country. Some people can argue all they want saying the survey shows India in bad light but the truth is that India is bad for women, and I guess reality bites,” said Nirmika Singh, Executive Editor, Rolling Stone India.

Though the rank is undeserved the reality is still staggering

Elsa Marie Dsilva, Founder of Safecity said, “I definitely beg to disagree with India being ranked as the number one country that is unsafe for women. But I would also like to use the opportunity to draw attention to the fact that women and girls are increasingly becoming vulnerable to attacks. We just have to remind ourselves of the series of attacks on young girls aged 11 months to 11 years in the last few months. These were gang rapes with intent to harm and driven by a fiendish purpose. Can we ignore that?

We can choose to be defensive but we cannot sweep reality under the carpet. All efforts must be made to end all forms of sexual violence especially against women and girls. It will take a concerted effort by all – government, police, judiciary and all citizens. After all, as Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said, ‘The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.’”

Five NGO workers gangraped

Acknowledge the need for change

Apurva Purohit, President, Jagran Group feels it is, “Yet another report with jarring statistics and deplorable results. One might argue that this was largely a perception poll, one where the survey questions assess perception, as opposed to facts. But the question here isn’t about how India was ranked ahead of countries like Syria and Afghanistan but when will India stop being a part of such disturbing rankings at all?

Nirbhaya, Kathua, Unao and countless other stories are what make it to the newsrooms, and thus we can be quite sure that there are several sexual assault cases that exist but which remain unreported.

Leaving the facts aside, even the perception of the state of women in the country is not very positive. Nirbhaya, Kathua, Unao and countless other stories are what make it to the newsrooms, and thus we can be quite sure that there are several sexual assault cases that exist but which remain unreported. In a country that is world’s largest democracy, the crimes that have been most highlighted globally in the recent past are around heinous sexual crimes against women. A clear indication of everything that isn’t right. An indication that we need fast track verdicts, police and mass sensitization programs and most of all uncompromising punishments to send out a strong message to the perpetrators. Whether we collectively agree to this report or disregard the conclusion, what we cannot ignore is that there is a PROBLEM and a grave one. The sooner we acknowledge and course correct, the less we will have to drown our heads in shame.”

The research only referred a small number of women

“After speaking to merely 550 experts/respondents, the Thomas Reuters Foundation has ranked India as the world’s most dangerous country for women. It is extremely shameful and shocking to find India at the top of such a list, especially when lower on in the same list come countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia – where women are faced with even more dire social and economic issues than women in our country do. And, some of the countries on the list are known to be places where women are not allowed to have a voice or speak up in any way!

I am not denying – and no one who is aware of what happens in India will deny – that as a nation, there is a lot that we have to do to guarantee the safety of our girls and women. This is true not just in remote areas of the country, but unfortunately, as recent cases of brutal rape and murder have shown, in our metros too. It is a sad commentary on the evolution of our psyche that grave issues like gender discrimination, patriarchal restrictions, sexual harassment, domestic and sexual violence, and more continue to be prevalent in India, even in the 21st century. And we still have a long way to go to right all the ills that beset women from different castes, cultures, communities and economic strata. But to rank India at the top of such a list would, in my opinion, be making a rather harsh indictment of the state of affairs here,” feels Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena, Executive Editor, Verve 

India is deeply flawed but still doesn’t deserve the title of most dangerous.

“There have been many times in the last few years when I have been outraged and infinitely saddened at the things that have been done to our women. I wept when Nirbhaya happened and hoped our justice system would take care of it. I lulled myself into believing that the perpetrators of the crime would go the gallows and their example would deter other criminals from brutalising our daughters.

The victims of bestiality only seem to get younger- a 6 month old raped by her uncle- What is becoming of this country where women are, ironically enough, worshiped as deities?

But I was wrong and each day, it only gets worse. The victims of bestiality only seem to get younger- a 6 month old raped by her uncle- What is becoming of this country where women are, ironically enough, worshiped as deities? My blood boils when ignorant, boorish politicians with criminal records make excuses and trivialize the rampant attacks on our women and when they tell us how to talk and walk, where to go, who not to talk to and what we are to wear.

But none of this makes us the most dangerous place on this planet for women. Violence and atrocities against women are much worse in several countries. There are still places in this world where women mean next to nothing and their life amounts to nothing. There are places where women live in constant fear because they don’t know when they will offend a men or the community around her and when  they will be dragged on the streets and subject to public flogging. There are countries where women are stripped of their clothes and their dignity and lynched to death. There are places on this earth where women are scared to even breathe without permission from the men who control their lives.

For these places to be overlooked and for us to be labelled the most dangerous country on this earth for women is a travesty. Women in India are at the forefront of almost every conceivable field. We are the harbingers of change and development and our women and their spirit is celebrated all over the world.

Admittedly, there is much to be done to make it a safer place for us to live and flourish in, without being fearful and insecure and, I believe that change needs to come sooner rather than later. The statistics just now are rather shameful- as of 2016 India had a record of 106 rapes each day and worse, four out of every 10 victims were minors. Even more shameful, only one out of every four rape cases ended in conviction!

Even so, in the meantime, the organisation that brought out this survey has some explaining to do about the methods it adopted to come to this cringe-inducing conclusion. It needs to come out with the facts and the figures and explain to this country of 1.3 billion people just how we came to own this shameful crown. the ‘Expert” opinion of 500 people on this subject cannot justify the magnitude of the label/ conclusion that has been so categorically delivered,” shares author, biographer Sudha Menon.

The survey presents a narrow view

Kirthi Jayakumar, Founder, Red Elephant said, “In all honesty, the survey had no nuance. It was a bunch of open ended questions that could bring in a lot of subjectivity – answers to which can be informed by highly specialized experience, and / or insufficient information for worlds beyond one’s own. This is not to dismiss the fact that India does need to tackle the gender inequality, violence and discrimination, that thrives in its societies. India is unsafe, and we all acknowledge that. The survey, though, really lacked depth, and its premise was unclear. How can you compare a country in conflict and a country without conflict and draw a ranking based on that? How do you homogenize a country’s gender experience when within the country, gender experiences differ? How do some voices responding to a highly subjective questionnaire become the frame of reference for absolute rankings? I’m keen to know if the survey was administered beyond privileged circles online and actually collected those responses, and if it was administered in multiple languages (beyond the six UN languages)… Because if not, then this survey represents a very, very narrow view.”

India Rape Capital Beti Bachao

Rank doesn’t matter but the reality of crime against women does

It doesn’t matter to me whether we are number or four or even ten. Let’s get this right, we are unsafe. Whether we are on top of that list or a few notches below does it matter? We should be livid anyway. Women safety has been talk and no show by successive governments and we need to go beyond slogans.

“I walk the street. I feel unsafe. I am always on the lookout for who is behind me. Who is driving past me and if their windows are black tinted, rolled down, it is too close, is it far? This survey that’s taking up headlines around the world about India’s safety, it doesn’t matter when it was done. It doesn’t matter to me whether we are number or four or even ten. Let’s get this right, we are unsafe. Whether we are on top of that list or a few notches below does it matter? We should be livid anyway. Women safety has been talk and no show by successive governments and we need to go beyond slogans. Women feel unsafe to go to party, they are criticised for wearing western clothes and they don’t know what aspect of their lives will be attacked by vigilante groups. Heinous rape cases continue, Nirbhaya to Asifa to the Surat case to every single rape in this nation. Lawyers, journalists, village women, everyday workers are all complaining for unsafe spaces. Great to see conversations emerging but what’s the point of just those when the law and order is just not under control. I think the current discourse on social media is diverting everything to the If and buts of what Reuters did with the survey. But I ask you, has it not made to question – how have things changed since Nirbhaya? Have they? Where is the safety? Why is Safety for women not a headline every single day? ” said Shaili Chopra, Founder, SheThePeople.tv

The NCW and the Ministry of Women and Child development have rejected the findings of the report. While the tag as the most dangerous may or may not be justified, but we must keep asking ourselves are women really safe in India? And that is the primary parameter that bears debate.

Read Also: India Most Dangerous Country For Women: Survey

Apoorva Lamba is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv     

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