Why more women in office can lead to more documented crimes against women

at 05:00 PM ET, 09/18/2011

In 1993, India passed a constitutional amendment requiring Indian states to have women in one-third of local government council positions. Since then, documented crimes against women have risen by 44 percent, rapes per capita by 23 percent, and kidnapping of women by 13 percent, according to some accounts.

Crimes against men and gender-neutral crimes haven’t seen a similar uptick, leading to some to wonder whether the alarming surge in violence against women has been retaliatory. But a group of researchers say there’s a better explanation for the rise: having more women in office has led to a big increase in crime reporting, not crime incidence against women:

Using state-level variation in the timing of political reforms, we find that an increase in female representation in local government induces a large and significant rise in documented crimes against women in India. Our evidence suggests that this increase is good news, driven primarily by greater reporting rather than greater incidence of such crimes. In contrast, we find no increase in crimes against men or gender-neutral crimes.

The researchers—who hail from the IMF, Harvard, and the University of Warwick—go on to explain how local law enforcement has become more responsive since 1993, which could also explain the increase in reporting crimes:

For one, we find evidence of greater police responsiveness to crimes against women after the reservation policy was implemented.
The number of arrests increases significantly, particularly for cases dealing with kidnapping of women, with no decline in the quality of police effort. This has likely encouraged more reporting by women victims. Survey data on interactions with police show both a higher degree of satisfaction and lower bribes paid by women when their village council was headed by a woman.

You can download the whole paper here.

 
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