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On June 26, 2018, India woke up to the news that the country had been declared the most dangerous place for women in a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters. Social media erupted in posts that spoke about how violence against women had shot up during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led rule that commenced in 2014. Opposition leaders from the Congress party questioned the BJP government regarding the deplorable poll result.

But soon, the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry came out with an ‘explanation‘ which said that the survey was ‘inaccurate.’

Here is why WCD is lying and gaslighting the citizens when they say that.

The refrain from the ministry is that the survey’s methodology was flawed. ‘The ranking is based on a perception poll based on responses to simply six questions. The results are not derived from any kind of data and are solely based on inherently subjective opinions,’ a statement from the ministry said.

A cursory look at the survey is sufficient to debunk this claim and see through the government’s desperate lies when caught red-handed.

Contrary to the government’s claim, the survey followed a transparent methodology. It stated the parameters and methods used to measure the level of danger every country puts its women in. Moreover, this is not the first survey of this nature that Thomson Reuters Foundation, a branch of Thomson Reuters, the world’s largest news provider is conducting.

The survey conducted by the same foundation in 2011 followed the same methodology and had listed the five most dangerous countries for women in the world. India was on the list in the fourth place. The BJP spokespersons at the time had expressed their ‘concern’ over the result on social media. All based on the same survey they now claim is inaccurate.

BJP had released many pre-poll advertisement videos during that time, where it depicted women in danger in India and Modi sarkar will save them like a ‘superman’.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet from 2013 that quotes the Thomson Reuters survey of 2011

The WCD ministry, while dismissing the survey, stated that the methodology of arriving at conclusions by asking six questions to a group of experts in the field was not based on data. However, it is not clear why the ministry thinks that asking the same set of questions to around 548 experts in the field of women’s issues and using the answers as data to arrive at observations are not based on data.

The experts were chosen from a database of women’s rights experts built by the Thomson Reuters Foundation team, from previous women’s polls conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and from key groups in various locations globally.

In fact, compared to 2011, the study in 2018 was more advanced in methods, produced in collaboration with Thomson Reuters Labs, a global team of data scientists, research scientists, full stack developers, and designers specialising in data science and analytics, data visualisation, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.

The questions were regarding risks faced by women in healthcare, economic resources and discrimination, cultural, tribal, religious or customary practices, sexual violence and harassment, non-sexual violence and human trafficking.

For women in India, these indices indicate changes they have witnessed in the past five years. Even if WCD chooses to dismiss a panel of 548 experts in the field, statistics from the Police in India, based on reported crimes cannot be ignored. Increase in the number of reports results from a combination of awareness, education and the actual rise in crimes itself.

In India, this rise in crimes might come as a shock after the wave of protests against sexual violence that struck the country in 2012, when Jyoti Singh, a young medical student was raped and murdered in a moving bus in the capital city of Delhi. Yet, in January 2018, India witnessed yet another crime that was violent enough to shake the conscience of the people. This time, an eight-year-old Bakerwal Muslim girl by the name Asifa, was raped and murdered by Hindus inside a temple to ‘teach her community a lesson’ in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a display of power that was hitherto unfamiliar to India as far as incidents of sexual violence were concerned, BJP leaders and supporters took out massive rallies in support of the accused rapists in Asifa’s case.

Reuters Data Results Screen Shot

So when Reuters survey poses a question like ‘what is the most dangerous country in the world for women in terms of sexual violence?’ Indians and government of India can be anything but outraged or surprised.

The other questions the experts were asked were:

  • Which are the most dangerous countries in the world for women in terms of health by assessing general health access, the lack of healthcare, maternal mortality, awareness, and prevention of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and reproductive health including family planning, contraception, and other general female healthcare?

India came 4th in this field.

  • What is the most dangerous country in the world for women in terms of the lack of access to economic resources/discrimination? This includes job discrimination; an inability to make a livelihood; discriminatory land, property or inheritance rights; a lack of access to education and a lack of access to adequate nutrition.

India came 3rd here.

  • What is the most dangerous country in the world for women in terms of cultural, tribal and religious traditions or customary practices? This includes acid attacks, female genital mutilation, child marriage; forced marriage, stoning, physical abuse or mutilation as a form of punishment/retribution and female infanticide.

India came first in this.

In the non-sexual violence that included conflict-related violence, domestic, physical and mental abuse, India came third and in human trafficking including domestic servitude, forced labour; bonded labour, forced marriage and sexual slavery, India again came first.

National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma said, “Women are very aware in India of issues and there is no way that we could be ranked number one in such a survey. The countries that have been ranked after India have women who are not even allowed to speak in public.” She did not name a specific country but according to the survey, the countries that came after India are Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Nigeria and the United States of America (USA).

Rekha Sharma’s claim points at another trend from the BJP government itself – that of disparaging war-torn countries and countries so far away from a democracy to establish the superiority of India. The survey data and US presence in the top ten countries are more than enough to figure out that the measurement has been done taking into consideration the progress a nation has achieved as a whole while ignoring women’s rights and safety.

Even when India is struggling to keep its head above water, it looks as if the government is mainly interested in misinforming the citizens by showing other countries in poor light and dragging them down.

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