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Dangerous polls and irresponsible reporting

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The rankings were based on the perception of 584 experts focused on women’s issues. The foundation decided to evaluate the situation by analysing the risks faced by women in diverse categories, including healthcare, cultural, tribal, religious or customary practices, and various forms of sexual violence, and see if there had been any change from a similar survey conducted in 2011, which ranked India as the fourth most dangerous country (with Afghanistan being the most dangerous).

The poll, utterly bereft of nuance and riddled with bias, has set off a chain of reactions across the country and abroad. Many activists have welcomed the study, while the Union government has rejected it and its methodology, expressing umbrage at being pegged lower than Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. Requests (including mine) to the foundation for the data set and clarity on the experts involved were met with a stock statement.

According to the statement, perception polls are meant to complement official data, relying on the opinions of experts and the “methodology” of the survey: “We asked respondents to name the five most dangerous countries from the 193 United Nations member states. We then asked them to name the worst country in each of the following six categories.”

We do not know the formula used to calculate the ranks as the foundation states it is proprietary. We do not know who the experts are. We do know, however, that the questions asked of the experts are vague and general, with broad-based and often sweeping buckets of issues, clubbed under six generic categories.

If the intention of the foundation was to complement official data, it has failed abysmally. The results tell us nothing specific about the ground realities in India or the other countries, except that some experts think that India, for instance, is the most dangerous country in terms of cultural traditions.