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A new Thomson Reuters Foundation study places India as 'the world's most dangerous country for women' and predictably, we have erupted in outrage. Here's a closer look at all such surveys that rank countries.
A new Thomson Reuters Foundation study places India as ‘the world’s most dangerous country for women’ and predictably, we have erupted in outrage. Here’s a closer look at all such surveys that rank countries.
My Facebook timeline is equally divided between those sharing the survey results saying, “I told you India is a horrible place for women” and those pointing out that the survey is not actually based on statistics about violence, but on ‘perceptions’ of experts.
Indeed, as a former market researcher, I cringed at seeing the headline on the Thomson Reuters website which says, ‘India most dangerous country for women with sexual violence rife – global poll’ – which implies a degree of fact, when the poll is actually based on perception. There are serious shortcomings with a perception based approach to measuring violence. How many experts really have full awareness of the socio-cultural-political situation of each country around the world? Moreover, media reporting of violence in each country plays a big role in shaping individuals’ perceptions of violence.
What purpose does a study of this nature serve?
Presenting results of such a study on a ‘worst to best’ scale allows even poor performers to feel good about themselves. It is hard to imagine that a country like Saudi Arabia where adult women must still suffer the ‘guardianship’ of a male member of the family, or one like Syria that is still embroiled in civil war, are good places for women in any manner; nonetheless, Saudi Arabia can now pat itself for not being the absolutely worst place on the list!
What’s more, the absurdity of ranking India as worse than war-torn countries like Syria gives enough ammunition to those who think all Indian demands for women’s rights are a Western-fuelled conspiracy. I’m already seeing enough social media chatter around this conspiracy theory.
The reality is that women face violence in every country across the world. It is important to study each country in itself, to understand the level of violence against women, what is driving the violence, and how it is specifically expressed in that cultural context. Even a perception based study needs to be based not on experts around the globe, but on experts who understand that part of the world very well. In this study for instance, I am curious to know how many experts from the 10 countries that ranked worst were actually polled.
Pitting countries in a ranked list brings out the worst in each – those at the top feel complacent and those faring poorly try to justify why their ranking is wrong. For women in each country, the fact that they are better or worse off than their sisters elsewhere is no cause for cheer.
As a woman in India, I demand that my full autonomy be respected here; even if our ranking rises miraculously to some top spot, I’m not going to cheer that I am better off than those in worse situations. This is not a ‘relative’ thing. Women everywhere, deserve better.
Image via Unsplash
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Rajshri Deshpande, who played the fiery protagonist in Trial by Fire along with Abhay Deol speaks of her journey and her social work.
Rajshri Deshpande as the protagonist in ‘Trial by Fire’, the recent Netflix show has received raving reviews along with the show itself for its sensitive portrayal of the Uphaar Cinema Hall fire tragedy, 1997 and its aftermath.
The limited series is based on the book by the same name written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who lost both their children in the tragedy. We got an opportunity to interview Rajshri Deshpande who played Neelam Krishnamoorthy, the woman who has been relentlessly crusading in the court for holding the owners responsible for the sheer negligence.
Rajshri Deshpande is more than an actor. She is also a social warrior, the rare celebrity from the film industry who has also gone back to her roots to give to poverty struck farming villages in her native Marathwada, with her NGO Nabhangan Foundation. Of course a chance to speak with her one on one was a must!
“What is a woman’s job, Ramesh? Taking care of parents-in-law, husband, children, home and things at work—all at the same time? She isn’t God or a superhuman."
The arrays of workstations were occupied by people peering into their computer screens. The clicks of keyboard keys were punctuated by the occasional footsteps moving around to brainstorm or collaborate with colleagues in their cubicles. Most employees went about their tasks without looking at the person seated on either side of their workstation. Meenakshi was one of them.
The thirty-one-year-old marketing manager in a leading eCommerce company in India sat straight in her seat, her eyes on the screen, her fingers punching furiously into the keys. She was in a flow and wanted to finish the report while the thoughts and words were coming effortlessly into her mind.
Natu-Natu. The mellifluous ringtone interrupted her thoughts. She frowned at her mobile phone with half a mind to keep it ringing until she noticed the caller’s name on the screen, making her pick up the phone immediately.
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