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The World’s Worst Places to Be a Woman


A new survey highlights the places around the world where it is especially bad to be a woman, produced by the recently launched TrustLaw website, a product of the Thomson Reuters Foundation that is aimed at being "a global centre for free legal assistance and a hub of news and information on anti-corruption issues, good governance and women's legal rights."

The survey was conducted among gender experts on five continents, and they rated each country's overall danger to women, as well as health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking.

The survey, polled 213 women’s rights experts on what they consider to be the world’s worst place to be a woman.

The results are in, and topping the is Afghanistan, followed by DR Congo, Pakistan,Somalia and India, based on a variety of factors including rape and violence, lack of health services, poverty and human trafficking.

According to the poll, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which ranked second on the list of the worst places to be a woman, an on going war has featured a brutal and strategic campaign of sexual violence targeted at women, from toddlers to the elderly.

Armed militias and members of state forces are notorious for brutal gang rapes as well as sexual and human trafficking. Women who survive or escape bear a social stigma in their families and communities, or worse suffer from fistula, a painful and embarrassing tearing of the wall between the vaginal and rectal canals.

In addition to conflict-related violence, which is largely associated with the easternmost provinces, a recent
































analysis of a 2007 household survey finds more than 1,100 women are raped every day in the Congo, nationwide. This tally accounts for both domestic violence and conflict-associated rapes; spousal rape is not criminalized in the DRC.

While Afghanistan was cited for its overall level of violence, there are a host of other factors that caused TrustLaw to put it atop the list. One in 11 women there have a chance of dying in childbirth; Some 87 percent of women are illiterate; and as many as 80 percent of girls face forced marriages.
Congo was put atop the list because of the staggering level of sexual violence in the country - a product of many years of war and humanitarian disasters. As many as 400,000 women are raped there annually.

The inclusion of economic discrimination as a form of violence is of particular note; although women comprise 70 percent of the DR Congo’s poor (which is widely acknowledged to be a violation of human rights and dignity), it is not always remembered as a form of violence.

The survey's authors suggest that a lack of access to economic, health and educational resources posed just as great a threat to women around the world as anything else.

Elisabeth Roesch, who works on gender-based violence for the International Rescue Committee, told TrustLaw: "When you actually allow women and girls to express themselves, these are the problems they cite: 'We can't go to school. We can't make enough money to support our families. We can't access the local health clinic, either because our husband won't allow us or it's inaccessible.' These are real problems."