63.8% said women don't feel safe post sunset: Gaon Connection Survey

We asked more than 18,000 respondents if women feel safe when they step out of their homes. While 63.8% people said women feel safe when they step out of their homes during daytime, but not after sunset, 11.8% said women never feel safe

Daya Sagar

Daya Sagar   3 July 2019 12:23 PM GMT

Seema Dubey, 15, studies in eighth standard in Prathamic Vidyalaya, Bhayara, Sant Kabir Nagar, Uttar Pradesh. She is not sure if she would be able to continue her studies as there are no higher secondary schools near her village. The nearest inter college is 5 kms from her village. She is not sure if her parents would allow her to go that far everyday for safety issues.

500 kms from Bhayara, Geeta Tekam, 16, faces a similar predicament. She lives is Surajpur, Chhattisgarh, is a bright student, but couldn't continue her studies.

"Women's safety is a big issue here. Many girls, who are very bright, are forced to sit at home. It's not that crimes against women happen every day, but parents don't want to take any chance because this is a forest area," she said.

There are many girls like Geeta and Seema who don't feel safe when they step out of their homes, revealed the Gaon Connection Survey. The nation-wide survey was carried out in 19 states. We asked more than 18,000 respondents if women feel safe when they step out of their homes. While 63.8% said women feel safe during daytime, but not after sunset, 11.8% said they feel women never feel safe.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report, 13.5% girls aged between 15 and 18 have to quit their studies midway. Even if they secure admission in higher secondary, their attendance is very poor.

Dhawal Chopada, who works with an NGO in Ahmedabad, said: "Our work requires us to visit many villages in coastal Gujarat. There are many villages where there are no higher secondary schools. Most of the girls quit studies because their parents fear for their safety and don't send them to nearby villages or towns to study."

No toilets, no school

According to report titled Elementary Education in India released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2015, about 20% schools in India still lack toilet facilities for girls.

While 94.45% schools in the country have toilet facilities, only 92.64% of these toilets are functional. Girls are a much more deprived lot as only 84.63% of schools in India have toilet facilities for them, 91.62% of which are functional. This means that almost 20% of schools have no toilets for girls.

A 2015 report by Dasra, a Mumbai-based philanthropy foundation and the Bank of America, titled 'Dignity for Her', said girls tend to miss school six days a month on an average due to the inability to manage their periods at school. This eventually contributes to almost 23% girls dropping out of school on reaching puberty.

Harassment at work place

According to a World Bank report published in 2018, in India between 2005 and 2017 two crore women quit their workplaces due to harassment. The report mentioned that in 2016, 539 women quit their workplaces due to sexual harassment which was 170% more than incidents of sexual harassments reported in 2016. And these were those cases that were reported.

Such cases of sexual harassment also lead to fewer women working in offices. In 1993-94, 42% women were employed, while in 2011-2012, only 31% women were employed. Even in rural India, the percentage of female labourers went down from 49% to 37.8% in the same period.

Cases not getting registered is a big issue

Reena, 41, who lives in Karchana block, Prayagraaj, has been dealing with domestic violence since past 18 years. But she was too scared to register a case against her husband and in-laws. She recently mustered courage to file a case after she got in touch with an NGO working for women empowerment.

"Women are too scared to come out in the open for various reasons. They agree to go to the police only after we encourage them to and give them assurances. In villages where we work, most of the rape and sexual harassment cases happen inside homes," said Chopada, who works with an NGO in Ahmedabad.

According to an NCRB report, 70% women don't file cases fearing defamation and lengthy legal battles. Of the total number of cases that are filed, only 25% see conviction and perpetrators get punished. According a report published in newspaper Mint, 99% rape cases don't even get reported.

Pankaj Singh, head of the NGO working in Prayagraj, said: "This happens because of legal lethargy. Domestic violence cases are supposed to get resolved in two months. But this never happens. The cases drag for years which discourages women from filing complains."

Lack of toilets lead to crimes

Sanoti Kavde, 22, lives in tribal-dominated Narayanpur district in Chhattisgarh. "This is a forest area. On top of that it is a naxal-infested area. So, anyway it's unsafe. On top of that, there are no toilets in most of the homes. We have to go out in the open. Though we go in groups, we still feel scared," she said.

According to an NCRB report, women who go out for defecation don't feel safe. According to a University of Michigan report published in 2016, probability of a woman getting raped doubles when she goes out to defecate or to relieve herself. The same report mentioned that in India 30 crore women defecate in the open. This despite the fact that the government has built toilets in 11 crore households in India.

As per the Swachcha Bharat website, the plan was to build toilets in 9 crore homes till January 2019. These are government numbers and also include those toilets that are not fully ready yet or are not fully functional.

Minor girls are the most vulnerable

When twenty-year-old Garima (name changed) was 12, someone threw acid on her. For a very long time, no case was registered. When a case was filed, it was filed against unknow people because police could not identify those who committed this crime.

Garima says sarcastically the case is still on against unknown persons and that she hopes that these unknown people get punished.

Rupali, who works with Garima, said when she was 10, someone molested her. Like Garima, a case was filed against unknown people, which is still on.

In 40% rape and molestation cases, victims are minors. According to NCRB data, 36,022 cases were filed under POCSO Act. This is another reason why girls drop out of school and don't feel safe.

The report said, "In 94.65 cases the perpetrators are known to minor victims. They are either their family members or relatives.

Victims of acid attack

Farah Khan, 33, lives in Farookabad, Uttar Pradesh. She got married at 19. After six years she came to know that her husband was having an affair. When she asked for divorce, her husband threw acid on her. She filed a case against him. The case dragged for 4 years at the end of the long legal battle her husband was imprisoned for 3.5 years. He even got married while Farah is still suffering.

According to a report, most of the acid attacks happen in South Asia. India ranks third behind Pakistan and Bangladesh.

There are strict laws in India for acid attacks, but in 40% cases, the accused go scot-free.

Jitu Sharma, who lives in Aligarh, was 15 when a 55-year-old man threw acid on her, but she could never prove this in the court. "I am the biggest witness and yet no one can see my scars," she said.

"India is the world's most dangerous country for women"

India is the world's most dangerous country for women due to the high risk of sexual violence and being forced into slave labour, according to a poll of global experts released last year.

War-torn Afghanistan and Syria ranked second and third in the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of about 550 experts on women's issues, followed by Somalia and Saudi Arabia.

Government data shows reported cases of crime against women rose by 83% between 2007 and 2016, when there were four cases of rape reported every hour.

Respondents also ranked India the most dangerous country for women in terms of human trafficking, including sex slavery and domestic servitude, and for customary practices such as forced marriage, stoning and female infanticide.

According to the NCRB data, between 2007 and 2016 crime against women went up by 83%. As per this report, at least four women get raped every year. In 2016, 38,947 cases of rape were reported.

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