Afghanistan most dangerous place for women

Somalia is ranked fifth for poor conditions for women, "surprising" minister; women drivers in US set to protest Saudi driving ban.

June 15, 2011 11:12
2 minute read.
Afghan women doing house work.

Afghan women_521. (photo credit: Lorenzo Tugnoli)

Violence, dismal health care 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 feticide, genital mutilation and acid attacks.

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"Ongoing conflict, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices combined make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women," said Antonella Notari, head of Women Change Makers, a group that supports women social entrepreneurs around the world.

"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.

Despite the news, Somalia's women's minister is astonished any country could be worse than her own.

"I'm completely surprised because I thought Somalia would be first on the list, not fifth," said Maryan Qasim.

Somalia is a lawless country has been engulfed in conflict for 20 years. But the greatest risk to women's lives there is not war but birth. One woman dies for every 100 live births, according to UN figures -- one of the highest rates in the world.

"The most dangerous thing a woman in Somalia can do is to become pregnant," Qasim said. "When a woman becomes pregnant her life is 50-50 because there is no antenatal care at all ... There are no hospitals, no health care, no nothing."

Meanwhile on Wednesday, women in Washington, DC are hoping to call attention to the plight of females in Saudi Arabia, a country that did not make TrustLaw's top five list but nevertheless limits several female rights, including the ability to get behind the wheel.

In protest of a law prohibiting Saudi Arabian women from driving, female drivers are expected to circle the Saudi embassy in Washington in their cars. On Friday, a coordinated, non-driving protest will be held in Saudi Arabia.

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