Reversing trends

Aheli Moitra

Gobbledygook is everywhere. The Indian national space is currently full of it. Who is the worst despot – Indira Gandhi or Narendra Modi? Was Indira Gandhi like Adolf Hitler? Is Narendra Modi like Abdul Muzaffar Muhi-ud-Din Mohammad Aurangzeb?


What do these morbid-aspirational analogies matter to the marginalized people of the country who have faced the same experience under the Indian National Congress as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party?


Let us not even discuss Kashmir or Nagaland from fear of violent online trolls and state agencies that reject any violent doing on their part. Let us stick to those who these ‘trolls,’ online and offline, attack most—women.


India is the world’s most dangerous country for women according to a survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The survey rated countries of the world (among the 193 surveyed) as being the most dangerous for women in this order: India, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Nigeria and the United States.


Women and girls in India face the biggest threat from traffickers because they are still widely considered to be sexual objects and second-class citizens, campaigners said.


About two-thirds of the 15,000 trafficking cases registered by India in 2016 involved female victims – nearly half were under 18 – with most sold into sex work or domestic servitude.


The poll of 548 people was conducted online, by phone and in person between March 26 and May 4 spread across Europe, Africa, the Americas, South East Asia, South Asia and the Pacific.


The reason for this condition, according to Christa Hayden Sharpe from the International Justice Mission, is the economic, social and cultural “subordinate status” of women.


If you are a woman living in India, you know exactly what the survey is referring to. All encompassing violence against women aside, regions in the Indian Union like the North East are more vulnerable to trafficking. Rumours about child kidnappers have not emerged here out of the blue. Young women and children are often lifted from the region to be absorbed into the abusive domestic labour force or, the worse-still, organized sex trade in India. One hears bare little about actions taken by the state to plug such trafficking.


Those not being trafficked are subject to keep up with the traditional, and violent, value systems all the while martyring themselves to shoddy healthcare, lack of employment, lack of infrastructure and multiple forms of debilitating patriarchy. Structural violence transfers from our daily material lives into the virtual world where ‘trolls’ routinely threaten Indian women on social media platforms with gang rape and murder.


The first thing the Indian state can do to start reversing the violent trend is show some respect for human rights and wake up from its denial mode (publicly rejecting surveys, analyses, data). Once it starts having a just paradigm for its women, with say affordable and available healthcare for all, then, perhaps, it can start noticing how it can treat its other minorities better instead of being stuck in a vortex of name calling, whataboutery and whynottery that currently define politics in India.


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