These days, people are forming opinions based off of the things they read online which often happen to be the comments sections of news articles, Facebook pages and YouTube videos. Therein lies the problem. These spaces are often populated by vocal and aggressive bigots. It’s a major problem if they start molding public opinion. Often the opinions being formed are on women’s issues.
In this wall of text, I’m hoping to help bring to your attention to what is known to quite a lot of people but is still not that common knowledge – most of what you hear people say on the Internet about how women’s safety is a non-issue in India is based on incredibly lazily analysed stats.
Statistics are thrown around a lot on the Internet to further agendas. The thing is, stats without context don’t tell you anything.
For example, Canada has the one of the highest numbers of kidnappings per capita. But it’s not like Somalia is safer than Canada because a pretty looking graph says so. They take parental disputes over child custody into account when calculating these stats.
A big part of why stats can be misused comes down to how we let our inherent biases come in the way of understanding numbers. And it’s not just the people weak at Mathematics who are guilty of this. This video does an amazing job of showing this phenomenon.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to tackle three misused stats around sexual assault that get thrown around a lot on the Internet by Indian keyboard warriors. Thrown around to deny that women’s safety is a non-issue in a country where, after 9 pm, the sex-ratio on the streets resembles a mechanical engineering department’s.
The average Internet discussion around how we compare to other countries when it comes to rapes per 1,00,000 people is that we are way below Sweden, USA and the West in general. Well here’s the catch- If you use data of rapes per capita to gauge how easy women have it in a country, you’d end up concluding that countries like Egypt, Syria and Lebanon that rank terribly in Gender Equality Indices are feminist utopias! Their rates are even lower than ours!
I’m pretty sure there will be very few people who would deny that misogyny or women’s safety is a major problem in these countries. And that the problem there is most likely graver than it is in India. This is used by many as a tool to deny that women have it bad here.
So why is our rate low? We have a terrible rate of reporting – comparing NCRB and NFHS data, it is 5.8% when the perpetrator is not a husband and 0.6% when it is the husband.
There’s another thing I’d like to add to this- in India many politicians give out an ultimatum to the police to keep the rate of crime low. The police makes sure that the statistics are favorable by, well, not registering FIRs across all crimes.
Why does Sweden have such a high rate? It is a combination of higher reporting rates and the fact that, say, if a guy sexually assaults his wife multiple times, it’s counted as mutliple cases there. Elsewhere it would be counted as one.
You see how facts turn around when you delve deeper into stuff that seems so ridiculously unintuitive? Also, a lot of the rapes in the west are date rapes. I think the ‘others’ folder of an Indian girl’s Facebook messages will tell you what kind of dating culture we have.
Or any such ridiculously high number. Now, it is important to understand the difference between an acquittal and a false case – whatever be the crime. This often cited number on the internet is not the rate of cases being false but the acquittal rate. An acquittal also happens when there is not enough proof against the accused– not necessarily when the accuser is determined to be a liar. And guess what, the acquittal rate for all crimes is approximately the same.
The rate of acquittal for attempted murder for example is 73.4%. That doesn’t mean there is a false murder case epidemic! For all violent crimes in total it is 74.6%, meaning 74.6% of the time the accuser loses the case. For rape it is 72.9%. Keep in mind, for crimes like sexual violence, proof is always going to be tough given their very nature – perpetrators usually commit these crimes when witnesses are not present.
Now here is what I don’t understand. We’ve just established that the acquittal rate for most of the crimes like murder, attempted murder etc. are more or less the same. Reported crimes other than sexual violence grossly outnumber that of sexual violence. Therefore, the total acquittals for crimes other than sexual violence are going to outnumber acquittals for sexual violence. Most of the people acquitted in these other crimes are also men.
If men being acquitted is such a big deal, then it would make more sense to talk about the men who were acquitted in non-sexual violence crimes. Yet they are not talked about at all. It seems to be that men being acquitted of crimes is only worthy of attention if women are the plaintiffs.
If there was ever an example of how an immensely patriarchal society effects men too, this is it.
The key here is that the word ‘false’ should be replaced with ‘unconventional’ and the phrase ‘scorned women’ should be removed. These false cases that are talked about are predominantly a combination of two things:
1. Parents lodging a case against the guy whom their daughter ran away with and
2. Breaches of promise to marry.
False cases in India which the internet loves talking about mostly don’t fall into the conventional definition of the phrase which means that a woman claimed that the sex was non-consensual while it was.
Think of this – there has to be something unique to our treatment of rape when the alleged percentage of false accusations is much larger than that claimed by other countries. Countries higher up gender parity reports where you’d expect victim blaming to be less pervasive.
This article analyses rape cases in Delhi’s 6 district courts over a 6-month period. 123 cases in their study were not concluded and that could be because of a range of reasons- the girl might be threatened, might lose hope, might commit suicide, or it could be a false case. Basically, it will be unscientific to comment on them as we have no data.
So, let’s go down to the numbers:
Total number of fully tried cases in Delhi’s 6 district courts in the 6-month period observed by the Hindu: 460. ‘Unconventional’ accusations: 109 (breach of promise to marry) + 174 (cases involving eloped/allegedly eloped couples) = 298. The percentage ‘unconventional’ cases would then be 61.5%.
The girl in almost all cases speaks out in court at least once in favor of the boy and in 2/3rds of the cases she does so consistently. This could indicate that the girl’s parents are not acknowledging her will to marry and infantilising her while doing so.
Let’s talk about breaches of promises to marry – the law. Put yourself in the shoes of a law maker. Laws are decided by them based on societal perceptions. Society places too much importance on whether a woman is a virgin or not. Her ‘value’ in the marriage market apparently drops the moment she loses her virginity. Therefore, they have this law in place to ‘protect’ these women. Now the root cause of this law’s existence is the way women are perceived in society. These laws which place excessive importance on a woman’s chastity infantilise women.
Also, like I said before, if you go by the NFHS data, the FIR filing rate is 5.8% when it comes to sexual assault by people other than husbands. Do the math on what percentage false or ‘unconventional’ cases are of the total number of rapes that are committed.
68,000 married men commit suicide in India as commonly cited on the net. It is incredibly absurd to assume all of them did so because of their wives and make that part of your anti-women rhetoric or because of dowry harassment. 1707 women committed suicide because of dowry harassment in 2014. In the same time, the number of men who did is 19. And when it came to marriage issues, 2934 women committed suicide as opposed to 1075 men. Your entire argument that women are driving Indian men to kill themselves in record numbers is absolutely insane.
And also, a well-documented fact is that across most cultures men commit suicide more often than women but women attempt it more. India’s suicide stats are not some magical numbers you can point to to prove your ridiculous arguments that men are the oppressed gender. If anything, give more women financial autonomy and the right to work. Also, if you scratch hard enough you’ll find that the root cause for a lot of these suicides is toxic masculinity and the notion that men cannot be vulnerable. This is well in line with the narrative pushed by women’s rights activists. Because they seek to allow men to be vulnerable.
Also, let’s talk about misandry, since this word is so overused on the internet. Misandry refers to hatred of men. The question is, who is responsible for this?
A common argument made in favor of victim-blaming is that if you put a piece of meat in front of a shark it will naturally try and eat it. Similar to the “boys will be boys” argument you keep hearing. But here you are generalising all men as sharks! You are comparing men to basic carnivorous animals that have no sense of civility. How has the misandry of statements like this escaped notice? Yet you accuse women’s rights activists, whose basic argument centers around the ‘all men aren’t sharks’ narrative. That’s why they say it shouldn’t matter if you are skimpily dressed because being an aggressor is not in and should not be in the nature of anybody.
When you come to think of it, can a case really be made for the fact that women don’t have it bad in this country? Our politicians share opinions with rapists on women’s rights, women are beaten openly on the streets, sex trafficking is rampant and the sex ratio is in shambles. The police certainly don’t seem to be on the side of the survivors. Foreign women travelling through the country have the most harrowing stuff to recount. When one guy does it or a few people do it here and there it can be a case of a few bad apples. But in cases like what I’ve given examples of, the problem has to be societal.
You’re playing into the hands of group of very toxic people by buying into this entire ‘us vs. them’ argument treating human rights as a zero sum game. They use a strong sense of ‘me vs. the world’- it is the oldest trick in the book to rile people up and have people buy into your agenda. Your angst is a result of a successful marketing ploy by people who have to gain from this gender war.
Forming a lazy opinion through the internet is dangerous. People, understand this, please. Remember, we’re all in this together.