How India Is Failing Its Women

Aug 1 2012 @ 9:52am

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An international panel recently named India the G20's worst country for women – a startling feat given that Saudi Arabia was in the running. Suparna Chaudry details the dubious distinction:

Sure, India might not be the worst place to be a woman on the planet…[b]ut 45% of Indian girls are married before the age of 18, according to the International Centre for Research on Women (2010); 56,000 maternal deaths were recorded in 2010 (UN Population Fund) and research from Unicef in 2012 found that 52% of adolescent girls (and 57% of adolescent boys) think it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife. Plus crimes against women are on the increase: according to the National Crime Records Bureau in India, there was a 7.1% hike in recorded crimes against women between 2010 and 2011 (when there were 228,650 in total). The biggest leap was in cases under the "dowry prohibition act" (up 27.7%), of kidnapping and abduction (up 19.4% year on year) and rape (up 9.2%).

It's not just violent crimes, says Chaudry:

[O]ther kinds of (non-violent) crimes—commonly referred to as "eve-teasing"—are a part of many women’s daily existence while out at work or on public transport, and include being subjected to sexually suggestive remarks and unwanted physical contact. The expression of discomfort by many women led the Delhi Metro to designate separate, women-only carriages on the train. However, as many have rightly claimed, separation of the sexes is not something that increases tolerance. An anonymous blog post by a woman highlights how her ride in the Delhi metro turned nasty when she did not board the ladies’ carriage of the train and instead traveled in the general compartment.

And India's rape laws are woefully narrow:

There is currently no special law in India against sexual assault or harassment, and only vaginal penetration by a penis counts as rape…. The maximum punishment is a year's imprisonment, or a fine, or both.

(Photo: Women's rights activists march during a rally in Calcutta, India on March 19, 2012. The rally was organised to protest against the recent physical assaults and rape on women, and also as a demand for a proper rule of law for women's rights. By Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images)