The Aam Aadmi Party under Kejriwal is now set to rule the capital for 5 years. While the mandate in its favour is overwhelming, it would perhaps face its stiffest test as a party in power.
In the recent past, no issue has been as politically important for Delhi as that of women’s security. The AAP (and the other major parties) has made lofty commitments to the women of the city, guaranteeing their security and promising to ensure that the city sheds its notorious reputation as the ‘rape capital’ of the world. As statistics in this blog piece show, this would be a massive challenge. But additionally, I look at women’s security not just in terms of physical security – important as that is – but more holistically from the perspective of women’s social and economic status in the city. Again, as the numbers indicate, there is a lot to be done.
Delhi accounts for more than 4% of all serious crimes against women in the country – including rape, kidnapping, domestic violence, dowry related crimes and immoral trafficking- though less than 1.4% of Indians live in Delhi. According to the latest NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) crime report of 2013, Delhi city alone accounts for more than 21% of all crimes against women in our cities, with Mumbai a distant second at 5.51%. In 2013, the year following the Nirbhaya rape incident, there was a 55% increase in cognizable crimes in the city. While some of this may have been because of greater reporting, there is nothing to suggest that the city is any safer than it was earlier.
The participation of women in the labour force in urban Delhi (11.1%) is also much below the urban national average of close to 20% (as shown in the figure above). This implies that a mere 11% of all of Delhi’s women in the age-group of greater than 15 years are available and willing to work. The male-female gap in labour participation was also marginally higher in Delhi (57.8 percentage points) as compared to the all-India urban gap of 54.3 percentage points.
In the case of urban female literacy, there is little to choose between Delhi and the national average. The number of literate women in urban Delhi grew from 75.2% to 81.1% of the total urban female population, an increase of 5.88 percentage points. The all-India increase was marginally higher at 6.25 percentage points. However, it is worth noting that many other major states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal have equal or better literacy rates among urban women.
These numbers across socio-economic indicators seem to reflect the growing plight of women in the capital city. Even as Delhi continues to grow economically, women’s participation in productive labour remains low, while more than 20% of the city’s women remain officially illiterate. Even among the small fraction of women who do manage to find work, 10% are registered as marginal workers, implying that they do not work for a majority of the year. Additionally, law and order issues continue to make Delhi an unsafe place for women. Nowhere is this bias against women more evident than in the skewed sex ratio of the city, a fact that was publicly acknowledged by the ex- Chief Minister Sheila Dixit. According to the latest Census, Delhi’s adult sex ratio of 868 (urban) was far behind the national number of 929. Perhaps the only heartening point is that Delhi’s sex ratio improved considerably between 2001 and 2011 from 822 to 867. In fact, Delhi recorded the highest growth in adult sex ratio in this period.
Clearly, as far as women are concerned, the statistics paint a rather depressing picture. The task before the government is made even more daunting by the fact that Delhi is still a “half-state”, implying that the government of the city does not have direct control over its police and law and order. The absence of such powers severely restrict the ability of the government to do too much for the safety of women. But time and memory in politics are very short, and Mr Kejriwal would be well-advised to make-do with whatever he has at his disposal. Apart from technological interventions such as CCTVs and SoS buttons as promised, addressing the social and economic marginalization of women in Delhi should also figure high among his priorities. A holistic development plan for women, based on an inclusive and participatory approach, might perhaps be the place to start.