The increase in number of females entering local Indian politics has caused a significant rise in documented crimes against women in the country, a research has claimed. The researchers, however, say it is good news because the increase is down to greater reporting of crimes against women, rather than greater incidence of crimes against them.
The authors of the study carried out at the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) at the University of Warwick in the UK, Harvard Business School and the IMF, examined the impact of the Panchayati Raj reform passed in 1993, which required Indian states to set aside one third of all member and leader positions in local government councils for women.
The researchers found that documented crimes against women rose by an average of 44 per cent after women entered local government, while rapes rose by 23 per cent and kidnapping of women showed a 13 per cent increase in the post-reform period up until 2004.
However there has been no significant effect on crimes not specifically targeted against women, such as kidnapping of men, theft or public order offences. According to a Warwick release, the researchers believe there are two reasons behind the surge in reported crimes against women.
Firstly, greater numbers of female politicians make the police more responsive to crimes against women. Secondly, women victims who encounter more sympathetic women leaders would feel more encouraged to report crimes.
Dr Anandi Mani, associate professor of economics at CAGE, pointed out that this is good news. "The reason it''s happening is because more crimes are being documented than were before the reforms - it''s not an increase in incidences of crime," Mani said.
"From what we can see in our data, when you have more women political leaders it has a motivating effect on the police to take crimes against women more seriously," she added.