“Salus populi suprema lex esto.”
The statement translates to “The Safety of the people shall be the supreme law” in English. This classical saying lays before us a very basic right that every citizen deserves and the state is bound to provide for. Most countries in the world very well recognize this right still we come across several instances where the safety of women is compromised, and not only in the developing nations but in the developed nations as well. Even in the 21st century women have to come out with campaigns like #IWillGoOut and #MeToo to make the society aware about something as simple as letting them live freely without any fear. Definitely such campaigns indicate much strength and vigilance on part of women, however, what they also indicate is the kind of policy and social paralysis with which the governments and the communities of the world are infected with respectively.
While from one part of the world we hear of Harvey Weinstein being accused of harassment, on the other hand instances of young girls being forced to become suicide bombers in Nigeria are not uncommon [The Washington Post]. Such insufficiencies have also exhibited themselves in New Delhi, India, where several girls reported about being hit by semen-filled balloons in the name of an upcoming festival, in a particular area of the city. These are just few among those innumerable unfortunate yet deliberate incidents which women face on a regular basis.
In the light of the same a research was carried out by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security whereby they ranked almost 153 countries in the order of the degree of wellbeing they provide for women. The top ten countries in this list include: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Slovenia, Spain, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Netherlands and Singapore respectively. The lowest ranking countries in the same list include Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali, Sudan and Niger respectively.
Out of the lowest ranking countries in terms of women’s security Niger has been the poorest performer as per the aforementioned study. The statistics indicate that the rate of ‘Lifetime intimate partner violence’ is 31%, the rate of ‘perception of community safety among women’ is felt only by 61%. The rate of the former is found to be 46% and the latter 64.30% for Sudan. As per a report by Huffington Post, as many as 33% of women in Sudan have experienced sexual assault by strangers including armed personnel, strangers and police officers. This is further coupled with assault by partners the rate of which even exceeds the above.
On the contrary if we look at Iceland the rate of ‘Lifetime intimate partner violence’ is 22% and the rate of ‘perception of community safety among women’ is 80%. When it comes to Norway the former indicator hits a percentile of 27% and the latter 81%. As per the Iceland Magazine the reason for such a good position of women lies in women’s share of seats in the Parliament (highest in the world) and the Workforce (highest proportion in the world).
Is the gap between the lowest performing countries and the best performing countries due to the economic conditions and government reforms? To some extent, yes. The policies of the concerned government and the economic conditions do play a major role. The very fact that countries like Niger and Sudan are economically backward does result in affecting the kind of security mechanisms and the social inclusion measures. On the contrary Norway and Iceland are currently performing very well in terms of economic conditions on an overall level and in terms of economic inclusion as well.
However lack of development status cannot be used as an excuse. This is clear from what The Washington Post reports that, “The U.S. security ranking thus suffers from high rates of intimate partner violence — which is more than 10 percentage points above the mean for developed countries.”
Hence, the whole issue of poor security for women is not something that people are not aware about and it is not a matter of solely government’s responsibility. It is an issue which calls for public awareness and social consciousness. People need to understand that everyone deserves o live without fear and with integrity and in order to achieve this it is important to provide for a social ground which holds the capacity to penalize those who try to act against such a spirit. At the same time the whole idea that one should not encroach upon another’s safety is something that calls for an internalization from home.
– Contributed by Richa
Picture Credits: metrorailnews.in