By Srishti Mehrotra | Edited by Aashni Rebello

Ironically, in a country where Goddesses like Durga and Kali are worshipped and are deemed the epitome of power, the women of the same country are subjected to brutal crimes and instances of violence. Crime cases against women are rampant in India, they hinder educational attainment, and earning potential and have significant economic and social costs. They can be physical, verbal, sexual or emotional and can occur at any place like public places, offices, or even at home. These crimes can lead to severe economic consequences and eventually result in a lower GDP and a higher unemployment rate.

Crimes against women have grave impacts on the economy as a whole, cutting domestic and international direct investment, reducing corporate competition, and giving rise to factors that create insecurity and inefficiency in the economy. Women’s share in India’s GDP is considerably small at around 17% compared to a global average of 37%. Instances of violence have deterring effects on women’s decisions to work outside their homes too.

The social and economic costs of crimes such as domestic violence are high and have devastating consequences for society. Women may suffer from disabilities, loss of income, and inability to participate in normal activities and their ability to care for themselves and their children reduces too. 

Studies have shown, for example, that Indian women can lose at least five paid working days each time cases of intimate partner violence occur. This fact causes the affected woman to receive less than 25% of her salary.

In 2018, it was estimated that India could boost its GDP by $770 billion in seven years by getting more women into the workforce. In 2013, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India conducted a study. They found out that 82% of the 2500 women surveyed said that they had reduced working hours out of fears of being home after dark after the ghastly 2012 rape incident. In particular, it was found that productivity in the Delhi IT sector dropped by around 40% since the incident. Though India is the second most populous country in the world, it is also one of the poorest ones, per capita and is still touted as a “developing” country. 

In 2012, only 27% of adult Indian women had a job or were actively looking for one, as compared to 79% of men. In fact, between 2005 and 2012, about 20 million women retired from the workforce. This corresponds to the total population of Sri Lanka. 

What is worrisome is that despite India’s rapid urbanization, only a few women are entering the labour market. Rural jobs are declining and not enough rural women are working in urban areas. This makes the need for public safety and safe transportation all the more important. In any case, the gap is particularly large and widening. 

India ranks 120th out of 131 countries for female labour force participation and the incidence of gender-based violence remains unacceptably high. Inclusive and sustainable development is difficult when half the population is not fully participating in the economy. At 17% of GDP, India’s women’s economic contribution is less than half the world average. If around 50% of women were able to enter the labour market, India’s growth could increase by 1.5 percentage points to 9% per annum.

Declining female labour force participation is most affected by concerns about women’s physical safety. Crimes against women in public places create a situation in which not only families but also women themselves are reluctant to participate in the economy where they may be exposed to these risks. Female labour force participation rates have been consistently low over the past 10-11 years.

This in turn means significant losses in the community in terms of the loss of employees with great potential who could have otherwise made significant economic contributions. 

Policymakers who have made a lot of noise about the “demographic dividend” of having more young people available to join the workforce have overlooked both the subtleties and the potential economic impact of women. And the less they focus on it, the more we all lose out, economically. 

Therefore, crimes against women are a clear obstacle to sustainable development. This is enshrined in the recently adopted agenda for sustainable development. For the first time, violence against women and girls has been included as a target under Goal 5 for gender equality, to eradicate crimes that act as barriers to gender equality, women’s empowerment and sustainable development.

Women are choosing to stay at home either by choice or at the behest of their family members, with an enormous amount of fear deep down. Mothers are fearful about leaving their children in the care of domestic staff. With a great spike in the number of reported rape cases over the past two decades, newspaper headlines are now referring to it as a “sexual violence pandemic” in the country. Regressive thoughts and social norms in India are responsible for the unacceptable violence women are forced to endure. This hampers access to education. The World Economic Forum places India in the 123rd position for women’s economic participation and 121 in terms of educational attainment.

The number of foreign female tourist arrivals dropped in India by 35% in the first three months after the 2012 rape case. The situation has only gotten worse since then. There has been a deluge of sexual violence cases involving attacks against foreign female tourists including women from the US, Switzerland, Denmark and Britain. Britain recently joined the long list of countries that issue travel advisories cautioning their citizens about visiting India.  

The trepidation among women in the country due to such heinous crimes is increasing which is leading to the toppling of the Indian economy. Tighter and more firm laws are needed to curb crimes in the country.

Women’s rights on a global level, particularly their safety are still very much in their infancy. The most recent statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau show that crimes against women have increased by 34% in the past four years. However, loopholes and grey areas are not without solutions. The first and foremost aim of our society should be the elimination of the age-old patriarchal thinking which is still ingrained in the minds of the people. This can be achieved through providing good quality education to both boys and girls and thereby making changes from the grass root level. Parents should be extra cautious of how they’re raising their male children, the “controller” and “dominator” mindset needs to be removed and they should be taught how to treat and respect women as well as other fellow human beings. Women should be encouraged to have a strong voice, to be independent and speak up for themselves whenever required. The government should introduce schemes that mainly focus on the safety and security of women. The already existing schemes such as “Beti, Bachao, Beti Padhao” and “Sukanya Samriddhi” should be diligently implemented. The inclusion of more female police officers could prove to be beneficial, they could have an effective understanding of the grievances of the female victims and thus, communicate with them accordingly. It’s high time that our women get speedy justice. The crime conviction rates are extremely poor, only 1 in 4 criminals who cause harm to women get convicted. This implies that some serious alterations need to be made in the judicial system of our country. Rape, dowry and domestic violence laws should be more stringent and the punishments should be harsher. Marital rape should be criminalised. Unfortunately, India is one of the 36 countries in which marital rape is not illegal. There should be an expansion of helplines and information sharing should be rampant.

Already existing Initiatives like the  Skills India Mission not only provide women with the relevant skills, but also safe travel, flexible schedules and childcare support to ensure that training programs meet women’s needs. The government should continue to invest in adolescent girls, helping them complete secondary school and providing them with mentoring services for success in the labour market. 

But these projects and interventions alone are not enough. Research shows that even women who complete a skills program and get a job, drop out due to family pressure. Changing social norms related to marriage, work and household chores should be part of the agenda. 

Families should see their daughters as capable future professionals. Now is the perfect time to review and reform outdated laws and policies that prevent women from entering or staying in the labour market. Encouraging the creation of better jobs, supporting the care of children and the elderly, and ensuring safe transport to and from the workplace can improve women’s access to employment.

The government must protect and ensure justice for all victims and survivors. In addition to this, they should be given a plethora of opportunities for exploring and bettering themselves. Entrepreneurial ventures launched by women should be encouraged, and tax concessions and subsidies should be offered to them. 

Although India is progressing in every direction, this development makes no sense if our women are not protected.  Regardless of the terrible manner in which women are treated, they keep their heads high and contribute to the economy in some way or the other. If the whole society gets together and works on eliminating all the crime there is against women, the economy would be much more efficient. Let’s all unite and let a woman be who and what SHE wants to be.


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