At the annual Women in the World summit in New York, Barkha Dutt aggressively defended India’s global image, but dismissed every Indian Woman’s issue with it, while replying to a question about women’s safety in India asked by Norah O’Donnell of CBS. When the moderator expressed concern about whether India is unsafe for women, Barkha quoted economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to establish that India is safer for women as compared to the UK and the US, as the instances of sexual violence are far less in India compared to these places. She went on to say that when America in its entire history never had a woman president, India had a woman ruling the country four decades ago. She continued to criticize the Americans on issues such as maternity leave, abortion and reproductive rights and commented that ‘these are conversations we don’t have any longer’.
Well, Barkha’s comments are extraordinarily lopsided and manipulative. Setting the US and the UK as the yardsticks to measure safety standards of women elsewhere doesn’t seem to be a brilliant concept. The notion that sexual violence is higher in the US and the UK when compared to India is a fallacy. The seriousness with which sexual violence is treated in these countries contributes to higher crime rates. Whereas, in India there are more acquittals than convictions when it comes to sexual crimes against women and only a few such incidents gets reported to the police. Moreover, sexual violence is not the sole crime that is committed against women in India and around the world. Dowry, sex selective abortions, female infanticides et al also contributes to the unsafe state of women in the society. Padma Shri Barkha Dutt is conveniently ignorant about such social facts and seems like a classic case of a privileged feminist trying to define the issues of thousands of ordinary women. The statement that in India abortion and reproductive rights are not discussed anymore is clearly deceptive, or the ‘Most Intelligent News Show Host’ has got selective amnesia and or oblivious ears.