So here’s a study by CNN-IBN that confirms my worst fears about the lives of women across India. I grew up in a big city like Delhi in the early 90s and sometimes, it wasn’t easy. Most public transport spaces were male domains that made sexual remarks and outright groping very viable. Offices had their share of seemingly polite perverts and men who thought women dressed well with the hope of attracting their male colleagues. And then there were the women who experienced violence at home and probably felt safe nowhere. I had held the belief that Delhi was the hub of such activity and not representative of the entire nation, at least not anymore. Apparently I was wrong.
The CNN-IBN-Indian Express-CSDS study which was conducted with 4000 women in 160 locations across 20 states including metros, big cities, towns and villages has some disturbing findings:
- Nearly half the women interviewed, 44 per cent to be precise, said that they felt ‘mostly’ (17 per cent) or ‘sometimes’ (27 per cent) unsafe outside their home. The survey findings also confirm that the metropolitan areas (million plus cities) are most insecure places for the women.
- Women in small towns feel much less insecure than big cities or villages. Young women below 25 years, especially in villages, poor women in big cities, single working women and young Muslim women are among the most vulnerable group.
- A majority of young women living in the metros said they had experienced teasing and one-third of them had experienced molestation in the last one year in public transport.
- Harassment at the work place is not confined to daily-wage workers or those who work in the unorganized sector. Organized sector professionals who work in offices report a higher than average experience of harassment at the work place.
- Nearly one-fifth of our married respondents said they were beaten by their husband or in-laws in the last one year; the figure for husband alone was 17 percent.
- According to a UN report, men will outnumber women by 23 million in India.
Click here to read the full study.
However, the study/media story (written by two men, Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar) depicts women as passive beings (victims) and certainly does not provide an opportunity for women to talk about how they dealt with their situation.
As for taking the matter to the authorities, about half of all women – across caste and class – said they’re not comfortable turning to the police.
The Delhi-based NGO Jagori has attacked the problem of public safety at its roots. Their “Safe Delhi Campaign” is utilizing public transport spaces such as DTC buses and auto-rickshaws to promote their safety message. Their commercial, ‘Staring hurts’ is aimed at stopping sexual harassment in its most basic yet most defensible form. With help lines, training sessions at colleges and information booklets they are opening up the conversation about sexual harassment in public spaces. Click here to read about Jagori or their Safe Delhi Campaign.
In the Hindustan Times, Ashok Row Kavi notes that mortality rates for women are actually on the rise in India, and suggests that men’s lack of respect for women leads to social problems such as feticide, maternal mortality, molestation and domestic violence.
India’s social problems have come under scrutiny, especially after its ascent as a global economy. The widening gender gap in India and in China has become a matter of growing concern. Sexual Frustration Will Hurt Asia’s Economies, said William Pesek in his Bloomberg article. It states that boys are preferred because they take care of their aging parents, and in some cultures they conduct the last rites when parents die and continue the family name. Girls, on the other hand are considered as a liability. Result? Parents undergo sex-determination procedures and abort if its a girl, resulting in the ‘missing girl child’. According to a UN report, men will outnumber women by 23 million in India and by 26 million in China by 2030. It is also suspected this phenomenon will raise concerns among investors and multi-nationals, and fuel sexual violence and trafficking of women.
In the Guardian Unlimited, Salil Tripathi says that another factor that contributes to the ‘missing women’ is the prevalence of the hepatitis B virus, as found by Emily Oster who completed her study at Harvard University in 2005. Intrigued by the findings that women with hepatitis B were far more likely to have a boy than a girl, Oster decided to investigate if a female fetus was more likely to be miscarried when exposed to the virus.
Drawing from that, she studied five countries with disproportionate sex ratios: China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt. In each region the virus was prevalent. As Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of the best-seller Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, wrote: “The women weren’t really missing at all, for they had never been born.”
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