Women in India are 40 times more likely to die of sexual assault

A woman holds a sign as she takes part in the #IWillGoOut rally, to show solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington, along a street in Bengaluru, India, January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

A recent study conducted in three major Indian cities and one American one has sown that women in India are 40 times more likely to die after being a victim of sexual assault than female victims in the U.S.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Tata Institutes of Social Sciences in India and Sweden as well as the University of Pittsburgh and looked at data from various hospitals in the four cities.

They analyzed the gender and outcome differences of different types of trauma, including sexual assault, injury from falls and road accidents from the years 2013 to 2015.

However, the study’s questionable parameters could be a reason for the high discrepancy in death risk rather than an actual higher risk in India versus the U.S. as the Indian database the researchers relied upon drew on cases submitted from only four hospitals in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, which have over 10 million residents as compare to the U.S. database who did not have submissions form a comparable highly populated American city but instead included cases from three trauma centers in just Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which has a population of a little over 300,000.

Researchers suggested the discrepancy was mostly due to a social stigma and lack of access to affordable care in India, leading women to not seek immediate medical care for injuries but even victim’s advocacy groups in the U.S. like Planned Parenthood, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and others have cited a similar problem in America as well.

In the U.S., a women is issued a rape kit upon request however, the results from the kit and the medical examinations following a sexual assault or rape remain untested, sometimes for years at a time but thanks to the study, other reliable data and several anecdotal news reports, the researchers were able to determine that there is a problem of fatal sexual assault cases in India.

According to The Independent report, in 2012, the brutal gang rape on a Delhi bus of Jyoti Singh Pandey made global headlines as thousands of people in India took to the streets to protest the lack of legal protections for victims of sexual assault and the courts slow or lack of processing such cases, harmful police practices and the underlying societal issues that have led to these types of problems in the country.

More recently, a judge in Delhi sentenced a popular so-called “spiritual guru,” Ram Rahim Singh, to a total of 20 years in prison for raping two female followers and in Delhi alone, there was an estimated six reported rape and molestation cases a day despite a dip in overall crime rate as of February 2017.

India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported that at least 34,651 cases of rape were reported across India in 2015 and the total number of “sexual harassment, attempts to undress, importation of girls from foreign countries, cruelty by husbands or other relatives, kidnapping and abductions, among others” was closer to 330,000 that same year, according to Al Jazeera.

In the U.S., in 2014, the number of reported sexual assaults and rapes was a little over 320,000 according to RAINN who also estimated that “every 98 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.”

While the Tata Institutes and University of Pittsburgh study is accurate in explaining that “pre-hospital care services are also not likely to be as well developed” in India as compared to the U.S., the situation with the American healthcare system and the debate over access to healthcare insurance in Congress may mean millions of American women are shut out from these services despite the advanced level of care.

Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, told Al Jazeera that unreported cases are likely higher in India not just because of the high amount of population but also the social stigma associated with it.

“The heart of the issue is structures in India that continue to restrict women’s autonomy, and especially sexual autonomy, often justified in the name of culture,” she said.



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