The worst places in the world to be a woman
Much of world celebrated International Women’s Day this year in the shadow of the #me too and ‘time’s up’ campaigns which have given rise to hopes for more equality for women.
But for many of the 3.3 billion females on our planet, the idea of social, financial and cultural equality is just a dream.
Even as International Women’s day takes on a larger profile than it has ever had, there are millions of women still subjected to violence, repression, isolation, enforced ignorance and discrimination.
In spite of real progress in women’s rights around the globe – better laws, political participation, education and income, many of the problems that have beset women for centuries remain, even in wealthy countries.
It is mostly in the poorest and most conflict-ridden, where levels of violence make life unbearable for women.
Some recent surveys have rated women’s problems by the quality of life, by health indicators and a picture has emerged of countries where violations are so severe that even murder is routine.
Literacy is one of the best indicators of women’s status in their countries, according tot Amnesty International.
Health is another key indicator, including the care of pregnant women, who are sometimes forced into disastrous early marriage and childbearing.
By scanning these surveys, iMPACT has come up with a list of the ten worst places in the world to be a woman.
The worst places on earth to be a woman
1, Afghanistan: The average Afghan girl will live to only 45 – a year less than an Afghan male. After three decades of war and religion-based repression, an overwhelming number of women are illiterate. More than half of all brides are under 16, and one woman dies in childbirth every half hour. Domestic violence is so common that 87 per cent of women admit to experiencing it. There are more than a million widows living on the streets. Afghanistan is the only country in which the female suicide rate is higher than that of males.
2, Democratic Republic of Congo: In the eastern DRC, a war that claimed more than 3 million lives has ignited again, with women on the front line. Rapes are so brutal and systematic that UN investigators have called them unprecedented. Many victims die; others are infected with HIV and left to look after children alone. Foraging for food and water exposes women to yet more violence.
3, Iraq: The conflicts in Iraq in the past two decades have left women as targets in interminable sectarian violence. Literacy rates among females, once the highest in the Arab world, is now among the lowest as families fear risking kidnapping and rape when sending girls to school. More than a million women have been displaced from their homes, and millions more are unable to earn enough to eat.
4, Nepal: Early marriage and childbirth exhaust the country’s malnourished women, and one in 24 will die in pregnancy or childbirth. Daughters who aren’t married off may be sold to traffickers before they reach their teens. Widows face extreme abuse and discrimination if they’re labelled bokshi, meaning witches. A low-level civil war between government and Maoist rebels has forced rural women into guerrilla groups.
5, Sudan: While Sudanese women have made strides under reformed laws, the plight of those in Darfur, in western Sudan, has worsened. Abduction, rape or forced displacement have destroyed more than a million women’s lives since 2003. The janjaweed militias have used systematic rape as a demographic weapon, but access to justice is almost impossible for the female victims of violence.
6, Guatemala: The impoverished female underclass of Guatemala faces domestic violence, rape and the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS after sub-Saharan Africa. An epidemic of gruesome unsolved murders has left hundreds of women dead, some of their bodies left with hate messages.
7, Mail: One of the world’s poorest countries, few women escape the torture of genital mutilation, many are forced into early marriages, and one in ten dies in pregnancy or childbirth.
8, Pakistan: In the tribal border areas of Pakistan women are gang-raped as punishment for men’s crimes. But honour killing is more widespread, and a renewed wave of religious extremism is targeting female politicians, human rights workers and lawyers.
9, Saudi Arabia: Women in Saudi Arabia are treated as lifelong dependents, under the guardianship of a male relative. Deprived of the right to drive a car or mix with men publicly, they are confined to strictly segregated lives on pain of severe punishment.
10, Somalia: In the capital Mogadishu, a vicious civil war has put women, who were the traditional mainstay of the family, under attack. In a society that has broken down, women are exposed daily to rape, dangerously poor health care for pregnancy, and attack by armed gangs.
The best places on earth to be a woman
The surveys also show countries where life expectancy, education, purchasing power and the standard of living for women is high. Not surprisingly, they are some of the world’s wealthiest.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist