(The Washington Post) A report this week ranking India as the most dangerous country in the world for women has reignited the country’s ongoing debate over women’s safety. On Tuesday, the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the philanthropic arm of Reuters media company — released a study that ranked India as the most dangerous place because of its high incidences of sexual violence, lack of access to justice in rape cases, child marriage, female feticide and human trafficking.
Experts interviewed for the poll said India had topped the list because its government has done little to protect women since the controversial rape and murder of a young student in 2012 prompted widespread outrage and changes in the country’s rape laws.
“India has shown utter disregard and disrespect for women ... rape, marital rapes, sexual assault and harassment, female infanticide has gone unabated,” Manjunath Gangadhara, an official in the southern state of Karnataka, told Thomson Reuters. The poll — based on a survey of 548 experts on women’s issues — ignited an immediate firestorm of controversy on Indian social media.
India’s National Commission for Women chairperson, Rekha Sharma, rejected the ranking, saying the sample size was too small, according to the Times of India. “There is no way that we could be ranked number 1 in such a survey. The countries that have been ranked after India have women who are not even allowed to speak in public,” Sharma said. The report noted that reported cases of crimes against women rose 83 percent between 2007 and 2016, where there were four cases of rape every hour.
In addition, India has the most child brides in the world — around a third of all girls are married before their 18th birthday — and its own government estimated earlier this year that there are 63 million “missing” women in the country because of sex-selective abortion. Reported rapes in India — 38,947 in 2016 — are on the rise, but its rate of rape per 100,000 people remains far lower than some Western countries, including the United States, which experts believe is in part due to years of fear and underreporting.