Afghanistan is most dangerous country for women

Linked on our blogs with SPECIAL COVERAGE: The world’s most dangerous countries for women. – Published on TrustLaw.org, by Lisa Anderson, June 15, 2011.

… Violence, dismal healthcare and brutal poverty make Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country for women, with Congo a close second due to horrific levels of rape, a Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll said on Wednesday.

Pakistan, India and Somalia ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the global survey of perceptions of threats ranging from domestic abuse and economic discrimination to female foeticide, genital mutilation and acid attacks.

“Ongoing conflict, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices combined make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women,” said Clementina Cantoni, a Pakistan-based aid worker with ECHO, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department.

“In addition, women who do attempt to speak out or take on public roles that challenge ingrained gender stereotypes of what’s acceptable for women to do or not, such as working as policewomen or news broadcasters, are often intimidated or killed.” 

The poll by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation, marked the launch of its new TrustLaw Women section, a global hub of news and information on women’s legal rights.

TrustLaw asked 213 gender experts from five continents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks. The risks were health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking.

Some experts said the poll showed that subtle dangers such as discrimination that don’t grab headlines are sometimes just as significant risks for women as bombs, bullets, stonings and systematic rape in conflict zones.

“I think you have to look at all the dangers to women, all the risks women and girls face,” said Elisabeth Roesch, who works on gender-based violence for the International Rescue Committee in Washington.

“If a woman can’t access healthcare because her healthcare isn’t prioritised, that can be a very dangerous situation as well.”

LITANY OF PERILS:

Afghanistan emerged as the most dangerous country for women overall and worst in three of the six risk categories: health, non-sexual violence and lack of access to economic resources.

Respondents cited sky-high maternal mortality rates, limited access to doctors and a near total lack of economic rights. Afghan women have a one in 11 chance of dying in childbirth, according to UNICEF.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), still reeling from a 1998-2003 war and accompanying humanitarian disaster that killed 5.4 million people, came second mainly due to staggering levels of sexual violence in the lawless east.

More than 400,000 women are raped in the country each year, according to a recent study by U.S. researchers. The United Nations has called Congo the rape capital of the world.

“Statistics from DRC are very revealing on this: ongoing war, use of rape as a weapon, recruitment of females as soldiers who are also used as sex slaves,” ECHO’s Cantoni said.

The fact that the government is corrupt and that female rights are very low on the agenda means that there is little or no recourse to justice.”

Rights activists say militia groups and soldiers target all ages, including girls as young as three and elderly women. They are gang-raped, raped with bayonets and have guns shot into their vaginas.

Pakistan ranked third largely 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.

“Pakistan has some of the highest rates of dowry murder, so-called honour killings and early marriage,” said Divya Bajpai, reproductive health advisor at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Some 1,000 women and girls die in honour killings annually, according to Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission.

Trafficking: … (full long text).

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