Its a matter of perception!

Last week a friend of mine shared an article on ‘How bullshitters not just survive, but thrive, until….‘. The article explained very well that these people do not work themselves, but create such impressions at right places at right times and with the right people. They create impressions like they have gotten the work done as they guided their teams or co-workers in the process. These impressions create perceptions in people’s mind where these people are seen as most hard-working.

This matter of perception is also very relevant for women’s safety issue that I am currently writing about. When last year, Thomson Reuter’s report called India the most dangerous country in the world, many people stood up and took notice. Indian politicians, women organisations, the media, all complained that these results are not reliable because they came out of a perception survey and not a fact-based survey. This had to be clarified because people were reading the headlines thinking that these results were based on facts.

A perception-based survey is done to understand how do people perceive a situation. So, in this survey, about 550 respondents (selected as experts in the field of women issues) from all over the world were asked to name one country (of the 192 UN countries) as the worst on six parameters related to – female health, culture and religion, non-sexual violence, discrimination, sexual violence and human trafficking. These respondents did not have to do any homework for this survey. They simply had to share what their ‘perception’ was about women safety in different countries. There are other problems with the survey’s methodology, but for this post, let us focus on ‘perceptions’ alone.

A number of factors affect our perceptions. For this subject, our news feed through TV or radio, posts and discussions on our social media, and word of mouth discussions are all creating and feeding our perceptions. After the Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi 2012, Indian and international media has been lit with regular updates and news over cases of violence against women in India. We believe that this is a critical step as it allows for open and critical discussion of the issues. However, these news and articles are creating perceptions in the minds of the readers and they are only seeing half the picture.

This is precisely why the media in Russia and Middle-eastern countries is so tightly regulated by their rulers. Their governments are very vigilant about what gets out on different media channels because they want to create a positive perception of their countries and themselves at all times. People’s perception about India is low, not because it is the fact, but because Indian has chosen freedom of speech, has chosen to be self-critical and our democracy allows freedom of press. This survey has done more harm than good to India. The only positive take-away from this episode is that India is now aware of the perception that people have about women safety in India. It is not only important for us to work at eradication of the problem itself, it is also important to let the world know what it is being done so that people’s perception is fair. It is also a lesson for us to base our own perceptions more carefully the next time.

As an attempt to create more awareness about women safety in India, my next post will elaborate on the legal system in India and how it protects its women folk.

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