India may not be the most unsafe country for women but it definitely is the hub of male chauvinism
Is India truly the most unsafe country in the world for women? Thomson Reuters Foundation's alarmist survey is based on the opinions of arm-chair experts who may well be alienated from reality. Are we the safest, most liberal country where women are superbly empowered? No. But by that correlation, are we the most unsafe? Compared to Iraq, Nigeria, and Syria, Indian women have it really good. But compare us to the other developing or developed nations, and the scene turns bleak.
Where else will you find one of the senior-most leaders of the ruling party getting trolled and everyone from her party, including 56-inch chest-thumping ones, maintaining a stoic silence. The troll, whose handle proudly proclaimed him to be an IIT-ian (clearly an educated lout), asked Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj's husband to beat her up because she helped an inter-faith couple. These troll armies that were raised in the run-up to 2014 have come home to roost, I mean…troll. They have attacked one of the most experienced women politicians of our times using crass language and virtual abuse. Swaraj's dignified handling of the situation may have been admirable but the results of her online poll were disheartening. 53,000 gave the trolling their stamp of approval. This means that there are at least 53,000+ educated louts active on Twitter who agree that a woman of Swaraj's stature, or for that matter any woman, deserves to be shown her place in society.
When this is the result of such polls, how can we blame the Thomson Reuters Foundation? Theirs was a 'perception poll' and when senior female politicians face cyber abuse, as Mehbooba Mufti said, what hope is there left for the rest of us? The perception obviously becomes that women are not safe in India. Sadly, when a Congress leader's daughter was threatened with rape, Swaraj too kept silent. What plagues our country is the mindset that we have about women. And women are to blame too. We have for aeons accepted the treatment that has been meted out to us by men. Our country may not be the most unsafe for women but it definitely is the hub of male chauvinism.
More worrying is the culture of rape that shocks few nowadays. A minor raped in Mandsaur, foreigners sexually assaulted by the general manager of a five-star hotel in Rajasthan, a Kenyan woman raped in Gurugram, a class 10 student gang-raped and poisoned in Fatehabad, are just the most recent cases. To repeat some facts and figures that I quoted in an earlier column, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), crimes against women have upped by over 83 per cent in the last 10 years between 2007-2016. At least 39 crimes against women are reported every hour. Rape accounts for 11 per cent of the crimes; four rape cases were reported every hour in 2016. The conviction rate has hit a record low and 2016 witnessed the lowest conviction rate of 18.9 per cent. Repeat these numbers to yourself.
Today, rape seems okay, trolling seems okay, online abuse and stalking, all seem okay as per the Indian psyche. Even the ruling party seems okay with their women leaders being abused. This is the example that we are setting for scores of abusive men and pliant female victims. This is the image of our country that we are building up, the image that the international community is witnessing, so why blame a perception poll when one's house is not in order?
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)