Is India unsafe for women?

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The recent case of violence against women in the small town (Hathras) of India has brought a great deal of attention to the scale of violence against women in India. The incident is undeniably unfortunate and calls for a probe, however, calling India an ‘unsafe country for women’ appear to be incorrect. While the prayers and support must be extended to the family of the victim yet it appears from the news reports that the incident is being reflected as a commonplace in the Indian context. Furthermore, many individuals and media reports contend that there is a rape in India every fifteen minutes, which suggests a high level of crime against women, writes IIM Rohtak Director Professor Dheeraj Sharma.

However, to accurately understand the situation in India, one must engage in a comparative study to ascertain where India stands Vis a Vis other developing and developed countries as far as a crime against women is concerned. One must recognize that high crime against women reflects a poor standard of living in any country. Consequently, the research team at IIM Rohtak endeavored to study data on the incidence of rapes across various countries and reviews how India fares in managing crime against women. Next, the research team examined the reasons for the under-reporting of rapes in a developed country. Finally, the research team examined the reasons for the under-reporting of cases in India.

The Rape rate is calculated as the number of rape incidents per 100,000 population. The table below depicts the rape rate across G-8 countries, certain other developed countries, and a few developing countries. The data was obtained from the world population review website.

Rape rate in G-8 countries, other developed and developing countries

Country

Rape Rate

Incidents

Population 2020

South Africa

132.4

66,196

59,309

Sweden

63.5

5,960

10,099

Australia

28.6

6,378

25,500

Belgium

27.9

2,991

11,590

United States

27.3

84,767

3,31,003

New Zealand

25.8

1,129

4,822

Norway

19.2

938

5,421

Israel

17.6

1,243

8,656

France

16.2

10,108

65,274

Finland

15.2

818

5,541

South Korea

13.5

6,321

51,269

Mexico

13.2

14,993

1,28,933

Mongolia

12.4

342

3,278

Ireland

10.7

479

4,938

Bangladesh

9.82

11,682

1,64,689

Germany

9.4

7,724

83,784

Italy

7.6

4,513

60,462

Sri Lanka

7.3

1,432

21,413

Oman

6.6

183

5,107

Philippines

6.3

5,813

1,09,581

Morocco

4.8

1,507

36,911

Bahrain

4.6

36

1,702

Kuwait

4.5

119

4,271

Portugal

4

424

10,197

Spain

3.4

1,578

46,755

Russia

3.4

4,907

1,45,934

Singapore

2.7

118

5,850

India

1.8

22,172

13,80,004

Canada

1.7

576

37,742

Japan

1

1,289

1,26,476

Note: Data on the United Kingdom’s rape rate in not furnished due to unavailability.

While the rape rate in India is quite low (1.8) compared to other developed and developing countries. It must be noted that the highest rape rate exists in the United States has the highest rape rate of 27.3. However, one can argue that the rape rate in India may be low on account of underreporting. Hence, it is important to understand the degree of under-reporting and what are the main reasons for under-reporting. Consequently, we attempted to compare the Indian data with US data. RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) is the United States’ largest anti-sexual violence organization. According to Criminal Justice System report by RAINN, the rape cases go unreported due to victim shaming, fear of reprisal, fear of family knowing, cases not being taken seriously by law enforcement, and possible lack of prosecution for the perpetrator. Only 9% of rapists in the US get prosecuted and only 3 to 6% of rapists will spend a day in prison. In India, the conviction rate is around 27%. The tables below illustrates why women do not report sexual violence in the United States.

Reasons victims did not report sexual violence to law enforcement

20%

Feared retaliation

13%

Believed the police would not do anything to help

13%

Believed it was a personal matter

8%

Reported to non-law-enforcement official

8%

Believed it was not important enough to report

7%

Did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble

2%

Believed the police could not do anything to help

30%

Other or multiple reasons

In order study the reasons in India context, a survey was conducted across 1004 women in India. All the women surveyed were from cities and were in the age group of 21 to 35 years. 74.5% of the women stated that they would report any sexual violence immediately to the authorities. Next, the one who stated that they would not report such incident were asked as what they believe would be the reasons for not reporting sexual violence to law and enforcement.

Reasons victims would not report sexual violence to law enforcement

21%

Feared retaliation

28%

Believed it was a personal matter

9%

Believed the police would not do anything to help

4%

Did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble

38%

Social Stigma

Two interesting findings of the survey are that nearly 68% of the women stated that they would report the matter to a non-law-enforcement official (Friend/Family/Relative/Acquaintance/Ombudsman). Further, more nearly 49% of the reported self-blame by stating that one should not engage with a stranger and apparent deviants. Additionally, 21.4 indicated that they would not get family support to follow up with the reporting of the incident.

To contain the growing incidents of sexual violence, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA has proposed “The Social-Ecological Model: A Framework for Prevention”. The model suggests interventions at the individual, relationship, community, and societal levels to prevent sexual violence. The model suggests education and life skills training, mentoring, peer programs, social norms, and social marketing campaigns that foster community characteristics, reducing social and economic inequalities in society. Three major methods utilized in several western countries to reduce the incidence of rapes in their countries are 1) Rape education for young men that allow them to understand the victim’s perspective and modifies their thoughts on masculinity, strength, and violence. 2) Rape education through religious institutions 3) Distribution of rape prevention kits to women 4) Anti -sexual violence programs in schools and universities 5) Media Campaigns. India could take a cue from the same and develops its strategy to counter the menace of crime against women.

India is a country where reverence for women is an integral part of its culture and tradition. Therefore based on this study, one cannot classify India as a country that is unsafe for women. People pray to women deities on daily basis in most India and women continue to be an integral part of the workforce not just in the corporate sector but also in the agriculture and handicraft sector. Therefore, strengthening the pro-active measure to prevent such crimes shall go a long way further promoting women-friendly culture in India.

*Views expressed are personal

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