In 2011, the most dangerous countries for women were Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India, and Somalia. That’s according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey that looked at variables such as healthcare, discrimination, sexual violence, and human trafficking.
What’s changed since then?
Unfortunately, the world continues to be a dangerous place for women according to the updated survey conducted this year, with one in three women experiencing physical or sexual violence globally. Below, we break down some of the trends and surprises in the 2018 survey.
Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery
When it comes to human trafficking, Russia is the fourth most dangerous place to be a woman. Anti-slavery group Alternativa reported that Russian victims are often trafficked to the Middle East and Europe, while women from Thailand, China, and Nigeria are trafficked into Russia itself. And now, the number of women trafficked into Russia might be even higher: The ongoing FIFA World Cup taking place in Russia may enable traffickers to exploit the relaxed visa process where fans with tickets can enter the country visa-free.
Another world-leading economy making an appearance on the list is China, a country where trafficked Rohingya women are often forced into marriages. Myanmar’s government reported that over two-third’s of trafficking cases they investigated led to China in 2016.
Nigeria is a well-documented trafficking exporter where “priests” involved in the trade capitalize on an ingrained fear of voodoo and black magic to exert their control over victims. But local activists are working to overturn customary practices that oppress women. One such activist is Oba Ewuare II, a ruler in Nigeria’s Edo State who has outlawed the voodoo ritual that places curses on trafficked victims.
The U.S. is No Exception
The only western nation to make an appearance in the findings, the U.S. is the tenth most dangerous place to be a woman.
On issues of sexual violence, sexual coercion, and harassment, the United States was rated the third most dangerous country alongside Syria. For non-sexual violence including mental and emotional abuse, it came sixth. According to a 2010 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in five women in the U.S. have experienced rape, violence, or stalking by a partner.
India: The Most Dangerous Place
With nearly forty crimes taking place against Indian women every hour, India is home to the greatest levels of sexual violence in the world.
Though international media has reported disturbing news of rape and gender violence in rural communities, sexual violence is also rampant in India’s corporate spaces. In fact, violence against women who work has lead an estimated twenty million to leave their jobs between 2004 and 2012.
But these statistics don’t reveal the whole picture. In fact, nearly 70 percent of victims of sexual violence did not report their cases in 2017 according to India’s National Bar Association. Nishtha Satyam, deputy chief of U.N. Women in India, attributes this to a “fear of backlash” from the perpetrators.
Suffering in Syria
After more than seven years of war, Syria is ranked third most dangerous place for women. Maria Al Abdeh, executive director of Women Now For Development says the absence of law and order has added insidious gendered dimensions to suffering in Syria, including the prevalence of rape as a weapon of war and an increase in child marriages.
But could the heavy losses among the male population actually present Syrian women with new opportunities? Respondents from the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) think so: The organization’s Jennifer Miquel cites a growing number of Syrian women who are heading households and becoming “agents of change” in reshaping the country.
Cautious Optimism in Saudi Arabia
The repeal of the driving ban on women has been lauded as a great step toward a feminist revolution in Saudi Arabia. And according to local journalist Maha Akeel, Saudi women are also moving forward in other ways, too, including gaining the right to vote and stand in municipal elections.
Despite these changes, Saudi Arabia has come fifth on the list. In matters of discrimination and lack of economic opportunities, the kingdom comes second only after Afghanistan. The lives of Saudi women remain dictated by the guardianship policy that forces women to obtain a man’s permission to travel, work, marry, and even get medical treatment. And a number of gender rights activists who campaigned for women’s right to drive are still behind bars.
Gender Violence is a Global Issue
With the survey showing danger for women around the world, it’s clear that gender violence and inequality are global issues. They are harsh realities for women living in economic superpowers, developing economies, rural communities, and modern cities.
So if the United Nations wants to fulfill its goal of achieving gender equality by 2030, it has a lot of work to do. But it’s not an international challenge alone; local governments and activists, too, need to push towards structural change within their communities, schools, and places of work.