Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The quest for the numbers

Over the last few days, we've been working on compiling data and statistics on various forms of violence against women, to disseminate through the campaign's media initiatives. The lack of data is a consistent stumbling block, for both highly visible and relatively invisible crimes. Marital rape, for instance, is vastly underreported in India, and indeed, across the world, as Lesley Biswas points out, here.

Why are these numbers so important? After all, it doesn't all boil down to a mere "number", does it? This is about real people and their real, every day lives. But, as Swarna Rajagopalan says, "the thing is each year, as we do this campaign, people still ask us: Is this is a real problem? And while we can say yes, emphatically, we can only throw some kinds of numbers at them. Where we do not have a count, it is even harder to make the case that (a) this happens to people and (b) this is gender violence. Like honour killing, or sexual harassment at work, or even, foeticide. I say this, in spite of knowing that data collection is never perfect and never a perfect reflection of reality. It seems that to make something count, you have to count it first."

I really couldn't have said it better.

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