Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan are the world's most dangerous countries for women in 2011 due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal healthcare and "honour killings", an international expert poll showed today. India and Somalia are the next worst places to be a woman.
The global report is shocking and also depressing for showing dismal lack of progress. When will things change? Most of these terrible situations, statistics and suffering are well documented – what more do we need?
The survey has been compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark the launch of TrustLaw Women, a website aimed at providing free legal advice for women's groups around the world.
Not surprisingly Afghanistan is named as the world’s most dangerous country for women because of its high levels of violence, poor healthcare and poverty. And the war was supposed to improve the plight of Afghan women…
“Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. That aside, it is also a context that gives a woman minimal opportunity for education, health access, reproductive choice, etc. The lack of hope of the situation of women improving in the near future, as opposed to countries such as Sierra Leone and Southern Sudan, makes the situation comparatively even worse," says Dhammika Perera of International Rescue Committee.
Continuing conflict, Nato airstrikes and cultural practices also combine to make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women. "In addition, women who do attempt to speak out or take on public roles that challenge ingrained gender stereotypes of what is acceptable for women to do or not, such as working as policewomen or news broadcasters, are often intimidated or killed," says Antonella Notari, head of Women Change Makers, a group that supports women social entrepreneurs around the world.
The second worse place goes to the Democratic Republic of Congo for the staggering level of sexual violence in the lawless eastern part of the country. One recent US study claimed that more than 400,000 women are raped there each year. The UN has called Congo the rape capital of the world.
Pakistan comes next on the basis of cultural, tribal and religious practices harmful to women. "These include acid attacks, child and forced marriage and punishment or retribution by stoning or other physical abuse," the poll finds.
The fourth worse place goes to India, which is more surprising for a country emerging into an economic super-power and a country not at war. India’s inclusion to the danger list is due to its high level of female infanticide and sex trafficking.
And Somalia completes the list. The country, in a state in political disintegration, suffers high levels of maternal mortality, rape, female genital mutilation and limited access to education and healthcare.
The poll asked 213 experts from five continents to rank countries on issues like overall perception of danger, access to healthcare, violence, cultural discrimination and human trafficking.
"This survey shows that 'hidden dangers' like a lack of education or terrible access to healthcare are as deadly, if not more so, than physical dangers like rape and murder which usually grab the headlines," Monique Villa, chief executive of Thomson-Reuters Foundation, says.
For more information, go to the TrustLaw website, which provides in-depth information, statistics, interviews and videos on the study. Also read the Guardian’s article by Owen Bowcott. The piece also provides links to case studies in all five countries.