India snags the first rank - it's the world's most dangerous country for women
The world's second most populous country was ranked the fourth most dangerous country for women in the same survey 7 years ago; Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia complete the top 4.
A Thomson Reuters Foundation survey has confirmed that India is the world's most dangerous country for women, as they are subjected to a host of assaults both sexual and non-sexual in nature – rape, harassment, marital rape, trafficking, and exploitative slave labour.
The panel - consisting of 550 experts from around the globe, working as aid professionals, academics, healthcare staff, non-government organisation workers, policy-makers, development specialists, and social commentators - has released a comprehensive list of countries and the probability of gendered crime and atrocities women face along with other factors like access to healthcare and economic resources, and oppressive cultural and traditional practices.
Ranking amongst the top 10 – rather the worst 10 – are Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Yemen and a shocker, but not really a surprise – the US. This makes the US the worst-faring western nation in the world. The US ranked joint third when respondents were asked where women were most at risk of sexual violence, harassment, and being coerced into sex.
The results of this survey don’t differ much from those that its 2011 edition threw up as far as the top 10 are concerned. Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India, and Somalia have been the most dangerous countries for women ever since – denoting that the countries have not taken any measures to combat violence against women.
"India has shown utter disregard and disrespect for women... rape, marital rapes, sexual assault and harassment, female infanticide have gone unabated," said Manjunath Gangadhara, a Karnataka government official, according to an NDTV report, adding, "The (world's) fastest growing economy and leader in space and technology is shamed for violence committed against women."
The statistics tally with the blood-curdling horror stories we have been hearing about rapes and assaults perpetrated against women and children alike. A sharp increase – 83 percent to be precise – has been recorded in the number of crimes reported in India between 2007 and 2016. While four cases of rape are reported every hour, the number of rapes is much, much higher.
Women at risk
The experts were asked to name five nations that were most dangerous for women amongst 193 countries, based on the given parameters. India was chosen as the nation where women were most susceptible to trafficking, sex slavery and domestic servitude, and even forced marriage, honour killings, stoning, and female infanticide.
Afghanistan suffered when it comes to the parameters of healthcare and conflict-related violence. Afghanistan's Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz noted that the law and order situation had impacted the lives of women adversely, with the Taliban maintaining control after 17 years of war.
"Nowadays, suicide bombings and armed conflict is the third (highest) cause of deaths and disability in Afghanistan," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in London, adding, "Instead of focusing (spending) on maternal health, on nutritional status, we spend it on trauma."
War-stricken Syria has been meeting a similar fate – and faltered in the same criteria. Women are dying during child birth and of domestic violence, at the hands of the government and of lack of healthcare. Somalia also witnessed a war over 25 years long, with the lives and living conditions of women being directly impacted as a result. Saudi Arabia, which came in fifth, was the last remaining country in the world yet to legalise women driving – which it did only earlier this year.
The #MeToo movement blew the lid off misogyny rampant in US, as it became clear that harassment and assault permeated every class and race in the “world leader”.
"People want to think income means you're protected from misogyny, and sadly that's not the case," said Cindy Southworth, Executive Vice President of the Washington-based National Network to End Domestic Violence, adding, "We are going to look back and see this as a very powerful tipping point ... We're blowing the lid off and saying '#Metoo and Time's Up'."
When it comes to sex trafficking alone, India, Libya and Myanmar top the list. Human trafficking amounts to an astounding market of $150 billion a year.
While India may top many other charts – be it economic development or technological advancement – none of it matters if the country continues to top this one. In fact, it’s a wonder that India is still classified as a developing nation. It may be measured on the basis of the progress India makes in other arenas of industry, science and commerce, but if it is a fundamentally hostile environment for half its population, with a tangible threat to their lives that cuts across every demographic, isn’t the “progress” notional and misleading?