New Save the Children report reveals insecurity of teenage girls from the outside world, but are our homes safe enough?

New Save the Children report reveals insecurity of teenage girls from the outside world, but are our homes safe enough?


Released in May this year, a study by Save the Children has found that if you are an adolescent girl living in the country, you are most likely to be afraid about being harassed outside your homes viz. in public places.

Entitled WINGS 2018 - World of India's Girls: A study on the perception of girls’ safety in public spaces, the study shows that nearly one-third of teenage girls surveyed were afraid of travelling narrow by-lanes of their locality, apart from the road which they take to go for school or the local market. Nearly, one-fourth of adolescent girls residing in rural areas felt unsafe while using open spaces/ agricultural fields for open defecation at dawn.

The report by Save the Children, which is based on a sample survey (non-probability sampling technique used) undertaken in six states of the country, namely Assam, Delhi-NCR, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and West Bengal, finds that almost three-fifth of teenage girls felt unsafe despite being in overcrowded public places. Due to inadequate lighting, almost 60 percent of adolescent girls felt unsafe in streets or other public spaces.

Public transport like buses, trains, metros, local trains etc. are considered the most unsafe public spaces by adolescent girls because of the fear of inappropriate touching and groping. Roughly 47 percent of urban adolescent girls (sample size: 1,821) and 40 percent of their rural counterpart (sample size: 1,307) had risk perception while using public transport because of safety concerns. Schools or colleges are perceived by adolescent girls as the safest public spaces, irrespective of whether they are from rural (4 percent) or urban (5 percent) areas. Please check the chart-1.

Chart 1: Spaces perceived to be unsafe across urban and rural areas by adolescent girls (in percent)
 
Chart 1 Spaces perceived to be unsafe across urban and rural areas in percent
 
Source: WINGS 2018 - World of India's Girls: A study on the perception of girls' safety in public spaces, Save the Children, 16th May, 2018, please click here to access the full report

Roughly, one-fourth of adolescent girls were afraid of being abducted, physically assaulted or even getting raped, while venturing into public spaces, whereas one-third of them expected to be inappropriately touched or even stalked. More than 60 percent of both urban (63 percent) and rural (64 percent) teenage girls were afraid of lewd commenting in public places. As compared to their urban counterpart (29 percent), a higher proportion of rural adolescent girls (36 percent) were afraid of being hassled and jousted by men, including improper touching. Please consult chart-2 for further details.

Chart 2: Safety concerns for adolescent girls when they are in unsafe public places of urban and rural areas of the studied states (in percent)
 
Chart 2 Safety concerns for adolescent girls when they are in unsafe public places of urban and rural areas of the studied states in percent

Source: WINGS 2018 - World of India's Girls: A study on the perception of girls' safety in public spaces, Save the Children, 16th May, 2018, please click here to access the full report

Safety within homes

The survey conducted by Save the Children shows that almost 96 percent of rural teenage girls and 91 percent of their urban counterpart considered home/ being near to parents as the safest sanctuaries. In contrast, only one-fifth of both urban and rural adolescent girls considered local police as safe sanctuaries. Please check chart-3.

Chart 3: Safe sanctuaries for adolescent girls from urban and rural India (in percent)
 
Chart 3 Safe sanctuaries for adolescent girls from urban and rural India in percent

Source: WINGS 2018 - World of India's Girls: A study on the perception of girls' safety in public spaces, Save the Children, 16th May, 2018, please click here to access the full report

A question that could be raised here is whether our homes are really safe for teenage girls. According to the latest available Crime in India report, which is brought out by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of the total rape cases recorded in 2016 (viz. 38,947) under Section 376 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 376 of IPC read with Section 4 & 6 of POCSO Act, in almost 94.6 percent of cases the offenders were known to the victims (viz. 36,859). Out of the known rape offenders, roughly 1.7 percent were 'either grandfather or father or brother or son etc.' (viz. 630); nearly 3.0 percent were 'close family members other than the ones mentioned previously' (viz. 1,087); and almost 5.9 percent were 'relatives apart from the ones mentioned earlier' (viz. 2,174).

Out of the total victims of rape in 2016 (i.e. 39,068) as recorded under Section 376 of IPC and Section 376 of IPC read with Section 4 & 6 of POCSO Act, nearly 1.3 percent victims were below 6 years, 4.1 percent victims were 6 years & above but below 12 years, 15.6 percent victims were 12 years & above but below 16 years, and 22.2 percent victims were 16 years & above but below 18 years (please click here to access). It means that around 43.2 percent of total rape victims in 2016 were aged below 18 years.    

Thus, the NCRB data indicates that teenage girls lack safety even from their near and dear ones.  

Gender biasness and victim blaming

The study by Save the Children brings forth the existing gender biasness in the society. It shows that a prejudiced society like ours often blame the victims of harassment for the unsafe external environment. More than half the parents (sample size: 842; urban: 423; rural: 419) agreed that they will end up scolding their daughters for letting an incident of harassment happen; and 42 percent of such parents felt that they are likely to regulate their daughters’ movement in public spaces in case they come to know of any incidence of harassment experienced by their daughters.

About forty percent of adolescent girls who refused to say that they would confide in their parents, felt that if their parents do come to know about an incident of harassment, they will, most probably restrict their movement outside of home. Nearly three-fifth of teenage girls felt that elders are policing them under the guise of concern.

The extent of prejudice is so high that one-third of parents of teenage girls felt that after a certain age, it is risky to allow their daughters to go to school or go to work on a regular basis on her own.

Roughly 58 percent of teenage boys and 52 percent of the parents of interviewed girls thought that it is not safe for girls to take a public transport in the evening.

Around fifty percent of adolescent boys (sample size: 1,141; urban: 704; rural: 437) believed that men should have the final word in all decisions. One-third of teenage boys held the opinion that slapping a woman to reprimand her should not be interpreted as violence. One-third of adolescent boys felt that girls should avoid wearing certain types of clothes while going out in public spaces.

Almost one-third of teenage boys and two-fifth of the parents of adolescent girls believed that girls play an active role in some harassment cases by provoking the offender. Almost 50 percent of boys and a large number of parents thought that the best way for girls to be safe is that either they should avoid certain public spaces or they should simply avoid going out after dark, reveals the study.

Nearly 30 percent of teenage boys felt that girls are generally taking away their jobs. More than one-fourth of adolescent boys believed that the government is more concerned about the rights of girls and not doing anything substantial for boys. More than 60 percent of boys agreed to the statement that it is the woman who is responsible to cook, wash and take care of the home and the family.

Roughly 20 percent of parents believed that it is better to get their daughters married early rather than take the risk of something happening with her on her way to school/ work/ any public space. Nearly 30 percent of girls (sample size: 248; urban: 124; rural: 124) who were students at the time when they got married expressed their feeling of having missed the opportunity of completing their education because of early marriage.

Around three-fourth of married girls who underwent child marriage had admitted that they had to forfeit many of their aspirations and dreams. Over 80 percent girls in urban areas and 66 percent girls in rural areas of the 6 states surveyed felt that girls who get married at an early age are forced to forfeit many of their aspirations and dreams they had for themselves, shows the study by Save the Children.

Awareness and role of police


When it comes to awareness, it was found by the study that most adolescent girls did not know about government statutory bodies like Child Welfare Committees that can be approached for referral to appropriate authorities for redressal against harassment. Roughly one-fifth of teenage girls surveyed were aware of such bodies. Around 11 percent of parents had information about bodies like Child Welfare Committees. A miniscule proportion of people knew about Childline (helpline for children) number (viz. 1098).

Media exposure of adolescent girls to stories related to sexual assault has made them more careful about where they go in public spaces, finds the study.

Roughly two-fifth of teenage girls believed that the reaction of the local police station (in the event of their going and lodging a complaint) would range from either blaming the complainant or showing acute reluctance in recording the complaint, finds the report.

Methodology of Save the Children report


In the present study, the term harassment has been used to explain violence in public space. 'Harassment' is also understood as abuse in the following terms:

• Verbal abuse or harassment (such as lewd commenting, whistling, angry shouting);
• Physical abuse or harassment (such as inappropriate touching, non-sexual assault, snatching of possession);
• Visual abuse or harassment (such as staring, stalking, leering, obscene gesticulation);
• Sexual abuse or harassment (sexual assault even rape); and
• Emotional abuse or harassment (such as humiliation in the presence of peers, cyber stalking, cyber bullying).

'Safety' has been defined as absence of fear of harassment (physical, sexual, social, psychological and emotional) in public spaces in the study by Save the Children.

For the study on safety of adolescent girls, each of the 6 states, namely Assam, Delhi-NCR, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and West Bengal was selected from the six regions (East, West, North, South, Central and North-East) using a composite measure comprising child sex ratio; rate of crime against women; women married before the age of 18 years of age; women who experienced spousal violence; and women who worked in the last 12 months and got paid in cash. The state with the highest value in the composite index were included for the study.

Based on a survey questionnaire, the study has collected information from 5,359 respondents across urban and rural areas, comprising 3,128 adolescent girls (aged 11-18 years), 1,141 adolescent boys (aged 15-18 years), 248 young, married girls (aged 19-22 years) who were made to marry early, and 842 parents of teenage girls. The urban sample was drawn from 30 cities of varying sizes. The rural sample came from 84 villages across 12 districts. The research team also conducted 40 focus group discussion (FGDs) with a similar set of respondents.

In the present study, a mixed method approach has been used by the researchers, which involved the use of a combination of quantitative and qualitative tools, mainly representative quantitative surveys, FGDs, in-depth interviews (IDIs) with stakeholders and key duty bearers, and analysis of civil society interventions.

Results of the Opinion Poll by Thomson Reuters

Released in June this year, India has officially dismissed the results of the Thomson Reuters Foundation Annual Poll on women's safety. The key findings of the Thomson Reuters Foundation Annual Poll-2018 are as follows:

• In terms of healthcare, which includes general health access to optometrists, dentists, general doctors and specialist doctors who have expertise knowledge in disabilities, diseases or dealing with trauma, Afghanistan tops the list of 10 most dangerous countries for women, followed by Syria, Somalia, India, Yemen, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Sierra Leone and Central African Republic.

• In terms of discrimination, which includes job discrimination; an inability to make a livelihood; discriminatory land, property or inheritance rights; a lack of access to education and a lack of access to adequate nutrition, Afghanistan tops the list of 10 most dangerous countries for women, followed by Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Bangladesh and Iran.

• In terms of cultural traditions, which includes acid attacks; female genital mutilation; child marriage; forced marriage; stoning, physical abuse or mutilation as a form of punishment/ retribution and female infanticide, India tops the list of 10 most dangerous countries for women, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Yemen, Egypt, Congo, Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

• In terms of sexual violence, which includes rape as a weapon of war; domestic rape; rape by a stranger; the lack of access to justice in rape cases; sexual harassment and coercion into sex as a form of corruption, India tops the list of 10 most dangerous countries for women, followed by Democratic Republic of the Congo, USA, Syria, Congo, South Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mexico, Somalia, Egypt and Nigeria.
 
• In terms of non-sexual violence, which includes conflict-related violence; domestic, physical and mental abuse, Afghanistan tops the list of 10 most dangerous countries for women, followed by Syria, India, Yemen, Pakistan, USA, Saudi Arabia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Mexico.

• In terms of human trafficking, which includes domestic servitude; forced labour; bonded labour; forced marriage and sexual slavery, India tops the list of 10 most dangerous countries for women, followed by Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Russia, Philippines, Afghanistan, Thailand, Nepal and Pakistan.

It is worth noting that a survey of 759 experts between 26th March, 2018 and 4th May, 2018 was conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, either online, on telephone or in person. The interviewees included aid and development professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, NGO workers, journalists, and social commentators.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation's eighth annual perception poll was a repeat of the Foundation’s first poll in 2011 that found Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India, and Somalia as the most dangerous countries for women. Although the questionnaire for 2018 was the same as was used in 2011 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the opinion poll was expanded later to find the 10 most dangerous countries for women (instead of the 5 most dangerous countries earlier).

References


A third of India’s girls fear assault or harassment in public places: WINGS 2018 report, Press release by Save the Children dated 15 May, 2018, please click here to access   

WINGS 2018 - World of India's Girls: A study on the perception of girls' safety in public spaces, Save the Children, 16 May, 2018, please click here to access the Executive Summary

WINGS 2018 - World of India's Girls: A study on the perception of girls' safety in public spaces, Save the Children, 16 May, 2018, please click here to access the full report

India most dangerous country for women with sexual violence rife - global poll -Belinda Goldsmith and Meka Beresford, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 26 June, 2018, please click here to access 

The world's most dangerous countries for women-2018, Thomson Reuters Foundation Annual Poll, please click here to access http://poll2018.trust.org/

Crime in India-2016, NCRB, please click here to access
 
When perception is reality -Sameera Khan, The Hindu, 10 July, 2018, please click here to access 

Stalked, Molested and Groped, Daily Travel is No Less Than Torture for Delhi Women -Zoya Mateen, News18.com, 30 June, 2018, please click here to access 

Govt rejects report calling India most unsafe for women, The Times of India, 28 June, 2018, please click here to access 
 
Recent poll by a Foundation on the world’s most dangerous countries for women 2018 is not based on data but on perception of unknown persons, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Women and Child Development, dated 27 June, 2018, please click here to access

 
Image Courtesy: Himanshu Joshi


 



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