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On a recent flight out of Delhi I was mentally writing a note on crime against women for a sociology journal when I, like most people, began to visualize Delhi as the crime against women capital of the country. Delhi does get a lot of attention on this subject, overshadowing the goings-on in other parts of the country.
According to the Hindustan Times of July 1, 2012, (quoting NCRB statistics) Kerala’s rate of crime against women (number of crimes per one lakh population) is 27, followed by Delhi with 24.6! According to this report verbal abuse and making lewd gestures form a major chunk of crime against women in Kerala, followed by physical abuse, stalking and flashing by men. The state also has the dubious distinction as the largest market in the country for pornography.
What is surprising here is that Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the country, the best life expectancy, the lowest infant mortality, a favorable sex ratio (1058 females per 1000 males), excellent healthcare delivery systems, and the lowest population growth- in short, it is high on nearly every social indicator but it is the lowliest of the lows where attitudes towards women are concerned. (On a personal note, my wife is a Malayalee, and whenever she goes out wearing a salwar-kameez in Kerala, the stares of the men are sickening, to say the least).
On the positive side, the Government of Kerala has recently embarked upon a scheme called ‘Nirbhaya’ (Fearless) to make the state more women-friendly. The scheme focuses on prevention, prosecution, protection and rehabilitation.
Now let me come to West Bengal, a state where nearly every female deity in the Hindu pantheon is worshipped with fervor and gusto, and where even little girls are addressed as ‘ma’. Kolkata newspaper The Telegraph (July 3, 2012), again quoting NCRB statistics, informs us that as per the NCRB report for the year 2011, the state accounted for 12.7% of crimes against women in India; it also accounted for 10% of all the rapes in the country, second only to Madhya Pradesh (14%). The newspaper also gives us this shocking discovery- that between 2006 and 2010, the incidence of rape across India rose by 15%, while in West Bengal it rose by 34%.
West Bengal, sadly, also tops the chart in cases of spousal violence, ranks 5th in the country in dowry related deaths, and is among the top ten where molestation is concerned. To this, let me add my own statistic- the state also sends the highest number of widows to Vrindavan-Mathura-Varanasi.
In a country where education, literacy, religiosity or near about anything else has not even marginally changed our attitudes towards women, what will?
I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management
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