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Was Maneka Gandhi holding the India rape stats upside down?

Vishakha Saxena
Vishakha SaxenaNov 23, 2016 | 21:37

Was Maneka Gandhi holding the India rape stats upside down?

Two days ago, a 35-year-old in Delhi lured a three-and-half-year-old girl with a candy to rape her. After the rape, he tried to smother her and dumped her unconscious body in a pit, thinking she was dead.

A few hours before, while addressing a workshop for women journalists, Maneka Gandhi told a roomful of women that India "ranked among the lowest four countries in the world" in terms of rape cases.

"I went to Sweden two years ago when because of the Nirbhaya incident, cases were being reported every day. Someone said to me that no one wanted to travel to India. I had data with me and I took a look at it and then showed it to him. As per that data in the world, we ranked among the lowest four countries in terms of rape cases. Sweden was number one," she said.

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Almost 30 countries have a lower rate of rape than India, as opposed to what Maneka Gandhi claims. [Photo: Indiatoday.in]

I hate to break it to you Ms Gandhi (hate because, *you* are the women and child development minister of the country) but you may have been holding that data upside down.

In a report pitting data from the United Nations (from 137 out of 196 countries) and the National Crime Records Bureau together, factchecker.in disputed your claim saying India actually ranked among the worst four countries in 2014, in terms of the number of cases reported.

Judging by the "rape cases per 100,000 population" yardstick too, almost 30 countries reported a lower rate of rape than India.

But that's not even the point.

Most of this data becomes unreliable when you factor in the thousands of cases that go unreported thanks to society and familial pressure. Not to forget the rape victim's first port of call - the police station - where officials are either completely unaware about how to deal with rape cases or are prone to writing them off, and in some cases, further harassing them.

There's another chunk of cases that are withdrawn by victims facing threat, harassment or embarrassment in general because people love to portray them as the real cause of their misery - what with the short clothes and late nights.

Also, don't forget the fact that marital rape continues to be legal in India - a sexual crime that you believe "cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament".

Funny how a lawmaker believes it's better to give credence to literal ills in the society, instead of upholding the law to punish a crime.

As any psychologist would tell his or her patient - the first step to overcoming a problem is acknowledging it exists. So let me put it out here for you Ms Gandhi, rape (and, in general, crime against women) in India is a serious problem.

According to NCRB data 34,651 people were raped in India in 2015, which roughly translates to about 95 rapes per day. And I really don't think that's something to boast about. It's stuff like this that makes countries including Canada, UK and USA to issue special advisories to women travellers in their country.

When they're not being raped, women in India become victims of a plethora of sexual crimes like stalking, eve-teasing, harassment, trafficking, violence, forced prostitution, etc. At least a dozen women have been publicly murdered by their stalkers in just the last six months.

As if the rape wasn't bad enough, some men even spread "rape videos" of their victims on social media, especially WhatsApp, often pushing the survivors to the point of suicide.

Another helpful tip a psychologist would give their patient is to not blame others for their problems. So that would mean, that as fashionable as it is to blame the media for everything wrong in the country, it seems a tad hilarious to point fingers at us for reporting rape cases.

Maybe you need a reminder that the count is rising because of the lack of stringent laws to deter rapists, and not because of reportage.

Did you know, the sex ratio of all of South Asia is offset by India's, according to a 2015 UN report?

Or that India accounts for one third of the global total of child brides?

Countless reports from around the world, unfortunately filled with similar data and information, show us today how big India's problem of rape and sexual violence against women is.

And instead of undermining this truth, if you could maybe address:  

- The lax laws against sex-detection before birth?

- Or the unfulfilled promises of an overhaul after the December 16 Delhi gangrape?

- Or the fact that the concept of 'consent' is lost on this country?

- Or even the horrible reality that rape is still considered a woman's fault?

Perhaps then you would actually do some justice to your post of the women and child development minister.

Last updated: November 25, 2016 | 11:26
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