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Thomson Reuters survey concluding India most dangerous for women is inaccurate, WCD ministry denounces the poll

The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Thomson Reuters conducted a survey to find out which of the 19 (world’s biggest megacities as ranked by the United Nations) cities are safe for women – and which need to do more to ensure women are not at risk of sexual violence and harassment and harmful cultural practices and have access to healthcare, finance, and education.

Union Minister of Women and Child Development (WCD), Maneka Gandhi, also denounced the poll. Calling the poll results as ‘subjective opinions’, Gandhi said that India has improved tremendously in areas of sexual violence, non-sexual violence, human trafficking and other parameters in recent times and hence the poll results are ‘a surprise and clearly inaccurate’.

In a statement released by the ministry, talks about how there has been a significant improvement in terms of financial inclusions through various schemes like Sukanya Samrudhhi Yojana and Jan Dhan Yojana. The statement reads, ‘India has registered a significant reduction of 22% in Maternal Mortality Ratio since 2013. There has been a drastic reduction in child marriage over the years, with reports of marriage in the age group of 0-9 years now being nil. Further, the percentage of women age 15-19 years who were already mothers or pregnant has dropped from 16% in 2005-06 to 7.9% in 2015-16.’

The statement cites NCRB data where 38,947 cases of rape have been registered in the year 2016. In the year 2014 and 2015, 36,735 and 34,651 cases were reported, an increase in reporting is due to favourable environment for women to access police authorities.

Stating that rate of rape in India stands at 0.03 per 1000 population against 1.2 rapes per 1000 in the US, the statement reads that ‘The cases of acid attack are only incidental in the country and as mentioned earlier, practices of stoning, female genital mutilation etc. are not seen here. India can thus not possibly be the worst in the world in terms of violence.’

With regards to the survey conducted by Reuters, twenty experts from various fields were contacted from each city to conduct the particular survey and these experts on behalf of all the women in the different cities concluded that “India Most Dangerous For Women”. Interestingly, information on their designation, credentials, country of expertise or qualifications is not made available to the public, which makes one question the reliability.

As mentioned by the foundation, a figure as small as 380 experts was surveyed to determine the fate of these 19 megacities of the world. The world with a total population crossing 7.6 billion, with India population equivalent to 17.74% of that of the total world population, one wonders how is the sample size a fair representative for India.

The poll was a repeat of a survey in 2011 when experts saw Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India, and Somalia as the most dangerous countries for women.

This particular survey was not received too well by Indians at large who took to Twitter to challenge the base of this basic survey.

People on Twitter raised doubts as to who these experts were to conclude that India is the most dangerous place for women. They also mentioned that this was a deliberate attempt to denigrate Indians.

Basically, what Thomson Reuters Foundation seems to have conducted is a ‘perception poll’ and not a statistical poll. As per statistics, Nearly 2.5 million cases of sexual violence were reported globally in 2014, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, with many countries reporting more than 100 instances of rape or sexual assault per 100,000 people. Of the 77 countries that reported to the United Nations, Sweden, the U.K., Botswana and, Australia had the highest reported rates of sexual violence. The U.S. has especially high rates of rape, specifically. As per statistics, the number of rape incidents per 100,000 citizens in different countries, India is in the 94th position.

It is rather surprising that India, according to this survey, has been placed above Islamic countries many of which are dealing with issues related to rampant genital mutilation, polygamy, sexual slavery and subjugation. A 2016 survey by the U.N. Children’s Fund showed that 87 percent of women and girls aged 15-49 in Egypt have undergone genital mutilation. Despite that, Egypt is ‘perceived’ as safer as compared to India.

While there is no denying about crimes against women taking place in India, where almost every woman has experienced harassment of some form or other, the survey seems way too subjective to be a fair representation of India’s safety as compared to other countries.

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