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No country for women

India is regarded as world’s biggest democracy. But more than half of its population, women, have been described as the most vulnerable lot, prone to sexual and physical attacks. In a recent survey, global experts put India as the most dangerous country for women, worse than war-torn Afghanistan and Syria which occupy second and third place. The Thomson Reuters Foundation, which conducted the survey, released its results early this week of a survey of 550 experts on women’s issues, finding India to be the most dangerous nation for sexual violence against women, as well as human trafficking for domestic work, forced labor, forced marriage and sexual slavery, among other reasons. It was also described as the most dangerous country in the world for cultural traditions that impact women, the survey found, citing acid attacks, female genital mutilation, child marriage and physical abuse. India was the fourth most dangerous country for women in the same survey in 2011. The release of the report comes amid mounting public outrage after a series of high-profile rape cases, including rape and murder of a 8-year old girl in Kathua and rape of 16-year old girl in Unnao Utter Pradesh, have forced the issue onto the national agenda. The worst of it is that in, both, Kathua and Onnao cases people associated with the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) were involved directly as also indirectly. In Unnao, the minor girl was not only raped by a BJP legislator but her father was done to death in police station for complaining about the rape of her daughter. In Kathua, then BJP minister besides several local and state level leaders of the BJP rallied around the people accused in rape and murder of the 8-year nomadic girl. Though the case if now being heard by a court in Pathankote, the BJP leaders are still running a public campaign in favor of the accused. India has long grappled with the issue violence against women. After public outrage and angry demonstration across the country against the rape of a young doctor in Delhi in 2012, government of India introduced some stringent punishment sections to the existing rape law. But it, in no way, helped reduce crimes against women. In a quite reverse way, there was rather increase in sexual crimes against women. But despite the introduction of stricter laws, around 100 sexual assaults are reported to police in the country every day, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, with nearly 39,000 alleged attacks reported in 2016, an increase of 12% from the previous year. It is a serious indictment of a country which boosts of a great humanitarian and cultural history. It should be a matter of concern for the society and country as a whole that India’s glorious past is being replaced by a disgraceful era with open support from the people in power. The rape and murder of Kathua gilr could be termed as a poisonous cocktail of religious bigotry and communal prejudice. The Muslim girl was kept captive in a Hindu temple, fed sedatives and raped repeatedly and latter murdered and dumped in a forest. It was a warning to nomad Muslims to leave the area. Eight Hindu men have been charged with the Kashmir gang-rape and murder. In the southern state of Kerala, a bank manager declared on his Facebook wall that it was “good” that the nomad girl was killed, because “she would have come as a [human] bomb against India tomorrow”. His employers sacked him. It should surprise one that the crimes against women are supported at highest government level. A rape—accused in Rajasthan, Nihal Chand, was accorded a ministerial berth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2014. It doesn’t matter if India is really the most dangerous country for women. It does matter that too many women in India live in a constant state of fear. And our government’s silence tells us that we’re on our own.