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There’s nothing new in Thomson Reuters Foundation’s report on women’s safety in India

Frankly, I find this business of ranking ‘worst’ countries to be tedious. To be bad is bad enough; better or worse is an academic argument

analysis Updated: Jul 02, 2018 15:03 IST
rape,sexual abuse,sexual harassment
Women protest against rape in New Delhi. A Thomson Reuters yearly survey called India as the most dangerous place for women, which the government rejected saying it’s an opinion poll.(HT)

That report, the one that damns India as the worst country in the world for women, came out in a week when one of the country’s most powerful women, our external affairs minister, was being trolled for transferring a passport official who had allegedly exceeded his brief over an interfaith marriage.

Of course, we’d like to believe that our women and girls are completely in charge of their lives — in charge of who to love, where (and whether) to study, what career to pursue and, even, to be born. Right?

So forgive me if I’m not joining the chest-beating mob howling in outrage over the Thomson Reuters Foundation perception survey that places India below Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia.

Sure, it seems absurd. Last year, I met some women musicians from Afghanistan and wondered what it would have been like to live in a country where music was banned and girls not allowed in school. Nor could I imagine living in Syria where we hear of an increase in child marriage following the seven-year war.

But since I have no idea what it’s like to be a woman in other countries, I declined to participate in the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey. I was, I said, in no position to compare.

What I do know is what it’s like to be a woman in India.

I do know what it’s like to worry about your daughter’s safe return home from the time she steps out of the front door. I do know what it’s like to accept that groping and leering is a part of your everyday commute and that public spaces have an unwritten ‘no women’ policy that is carried forward to our institutions including the Parliament and the judiciary.

I read about escalating sexual assault and the unspeakable violence that often accompanies it: Girls strung up from trees, burned to death or eviscerated. Then, I hear people justifying the rape and murder of an eight-year-old child in Kathua.

We cheer when Kailash Satyarthi wins a Nobel Prize but ignore that 80% of all sex workers or 16 million women and girls are, according to the non-governmental organisation Dasra, victims of sex trafficking. Honour the man, ignore his message.

Frankly, I find this business of ranking ‘worst’ countries to be tedious. To be bad is bad enough; better or worse is an academic argument.

The perception of 548 experts can never be the final truth. But to know that truth, you don’t need a survey of even one. You only have to live in India as a woman.

The patriotic thing to do is to fix it, not huff and puff at the poor messenger.

In any case, why aren’t we asking if India is better than Norway or Sweden? Now that’s an argument I’d love to have.

@NamitaBhandare writes on social issues

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 16:22 IST