Does India really deserve to be on the 4th spot on this list?

A new survey has named Afghanistan the worst place in the world for women to live; Congo, Pakistan and Somalia also fail females, with rape, poverty and infanticide rife.

The survey has been compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark the launch of a website, TrustLaw Woman, aimed at providing free legal advice for women’s groups around the world.

The Guardian reports that: “… the appearance of India, a country rapidly developing into an economic super-power, was unexpected. It is ranked as extremely hazardous because of the subcontinent’s high level of female infanticide and sex trafficking.”

The article continues:

India is the fourth most dangerous country. “India’s central bureau of investigation estimated that in 2009 about 90% of trafficking took place within the country and that there were some 3 million prostitutes, of which about 40% were children,” the survey found.

Forced marriage and forced labor  and sex trafficking add to the dangers for women. “Up to 50 million girls are thought to be ‘missing’ over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide,”, the UN population fund says, because parents prefer to have young boys rather than girls.

The survey was based on responses from more than 200 aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists chosen for their expertise in gender issues.

Each country was also ranked in terms of six risk factors including: health, discrimination and lack of access to resources, cultural and religious practices, sexual violence, human trafficking and conflict-related violence.

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I was appalled when I first found out. I was not expecting us to be on such a high rank of this honor list. Yes, there is female infanticide, there are dowry deaths, there are rapes and child brides. Yes, there is sex trafficking and minors forced into prostitution. Yes the system is skewed towards patriarchy and the gender ratio has been tampered with so much that I contemplate that the next generation of Indians may have to adopt polyandry as a practical solution to the shortage of brides. But to say that India is the fourth worst country in the world to be a woman?

Did not expect that. Neither do I think we should be placed on that spot. I mean, did India seriously beat all those other countries that routinely engage in the suppression of women?

Of course, I don’t really know the stats so I can’t accurately judge. All I do know is that there is danger if you are out in certain parts of the country beyond a certain time, but I hear horror stories of rapes, muggings and killings from all across the world. Thankfully I and most Indian girls I know have the freedom to move around by myself and do not need to be escorted by a male relative wherever I wish to go. I am free to drive, to get an education, to pursue a career.

But then, I’m a girl from the city. Neither have I ever lived in India, besides to occasionally go back there for my summer holidays.

I do understand things are different in the rural areas. I do know women are systematically brutalized for being born of the ‘weaker’ sex, and that I could have been one of those girls who were married off at the age of 8, or one of those girls that are ‘ritually’ raped on the announcement of my first period, or one of those women who have been murdered in a ‘kitchen fire’ for not submitting a passable dowry, or be on of those widowed women, flocking to the city of Vrindavan waiting to die, shunned from society because my husband is dead, and now I am just a financial drain on the family. That could have been my shadow that was considered bad luck.

On the flip, we have so many powerful women in business and politics. The corporate world has women at senior positions and there are more girls gaining an education than ever before. But I suppose that just wasn’t enough. To be bracketed in the same category of countries where female genital mutilation is the norm, rapes by sticks and bayonets are a part of daily living, maternal health care so terrible that 50% of women don’t make it past childbirth… is sad.

Paradoxically, I feel coming at 4th spot might be a blessing in disguise. At least now what’s invisible has been made visible. This may be the wake up call the country needs and the government needs to get their act in place and get serious about tackling gender related issues. I can only hope that a change will be seen during my generation.

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