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Gender gaps in countries around the world include a combination of issues. TrustLaw Women, a global center of news and information on women’s legal rights, launched in 2011, conducted a poll on women’s rights. Results released in June 2011 determined the five worst places for women to live.

They asked 213 gender experts including aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists from five continents to rank countries by dangers and 6 risks that were:

1. health threats
2. sexual violence
3. non-sexual violence
4. cultural or religious factors
5. lack of access to resources
6. trafficking.

Results: Afghanistan came out as the worst place in the world to be a woman. Then followed: Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Afghanistan was rated the worst in three of the six risk categories: health, non-sexual violence and lack of access to economic resources. According to UNICEF, Afghan women have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world- they have a 1 in 11 chance of dying in childbirth, as there is limited access to doctors. Also, women have an almost complete lack of economic rights, which with ongoing conflict, NATO airstrikes, and extreme poverty, Afghanistan is rated the worst for women.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) came in second because of the high levels of sexual violence. The United Nations has called it the rape capital of the world. More than 400,000 women (from babies to the elderly) are raped in the country each year by militia groups and soldiers. Rape is used as a weapon and as an act of war. Women soldiers are recruited to also be used as sex slaves.

Pakistan has some of the highest rates of dowry murder, “honor killings” and forced marriage of children. An honor killing is the murder of a family member by other members, based on the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community by dressing inappropriately, wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage, engaging in heterosexual acts outside marriage and engaging in homosexual acts at all. According to Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, approximately 1,000 women and girls die in honor killings annually. According to The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) it may be as many as 5,000.

Oh and don’t forget the actid attacks in which acid is thrown on victims with the intention of disfiguring and possibly blinding them. A Wikipedia source says 80% of victims of these acid attacks are female and almost 70% are under 18 years of age. These attacks are common in Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, and Bangladesh, but also happen elsewhere.

India ranked fourth primarily due to female foeticide, infanticide and human trafficking.

In 2009, India’s then-Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta estimated that 100 million people, mostly women and girls, were involved in trafficking in India that year, almost all of that trafficking is within the country. The trafficking includes forced labor and forced marriage, as well as sex slavery, almost half of which is comprised of the prostitution of young girls. Female infanticide and feticide is also huge, with an approximated 50 million girls killed over the past century.

Somalia ranked fifth as the worst place for women due to dangers that include high maternal mortality, rape, and female genital mutilation, along with limited access to education, healthcare and economic resources. Rape is constant, almost every girl in Somalia has had or is scheduled to have her genitals mutilated, healthcare is extremely low and for pregnant women this makes survival a 50/50 chance. Add these to the famine, drought, and extreme poverty and Somalia is really bad for women.

So, is the bottom line ‘Don’t go to these countries?’

No, the bottom line is the world needs to change for women to survive. Patriarchy is in charge and it is making women extinct. If you’re in the U.S., when you compare women’s situation in the U.S. to Afghanistan, you think we’ve got it pretty good, but on other polls, the U.S. barely made the top 20 of good places for women to live. The bumper sticker: No one is free when others are oppressed- Well, it’s true!

None of us, women or men, can reach our potential fully when people in the world are suffering in such catastrophic ways. Women cannot excel as much as possible, even in countries like the U.S. or Iceland (which is said to be a great place for women), when there are still women somewhere, anywhere being treated worse than garbage and when it is known to be acceptable somewhere to treat humans inhumanely.

We have to start in our own lives. Demand that women are respected by the media, by us, by our laws, by the world. Keep up the fight to make change for women, for all of us, for justice.

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