5 Worst Countries for Women
Some women fight for suffrage—some fight for their lives.
Between having lived in a state of war for over a decade and a maternal mortality rate of 1,400 per every 100,000 births, the women of Afghanistan know what it is to mourn.
Among one of Afghanistan’s greatest struggles is in dealing with rape victims. After a long history of male-dominate cultural practices that have often leaked their way into legal practices, rape and sexual violence is considered common though nearly impossible to report. This is due to the reluctance on the part of women to speak out, often because it is a family member and also because of the ill treatment rape victims receive after the incident is revealed.
According to a 2009 report published in The New York Times, violence against women has decreased significantly ever since the overthrow of the Taliban. However, as recently as 2012, a woman who went by “Gulnaz” in the news was jailed for adultery when a relative raped her. After giving birth in jail, the courts ruled she would be released on the condition that she agree to marry her attacker. According to the humans’ right organization Stop VAW, nearly half of all women held in Afghanistan’s prisons are sentenced there based on similar “crimes.”
Located in northwest Africa, this little country the size of Maryland packs huge problems for its women, as evidenced in the country’s life expectancy of 49 years old for females.
Here only 39 percent of births are assisted by trained personnel and as a whole the country averages a maternal mortality rate of one woman per 100 births.
On the other hand, rape—even spousal rape—is illegal. Further hope emanates from the establishment of a statutory rape law of 16.
Still, however, no specific law prohibits child prostitution. Polygamy remains a major cultural practice throughout the country. Women can be married as young as 14 and are legally prohibited from ownership or inheritance. Also, men can sue for divorce at any time, but women face tremendous and often impossible legal obstacles when seeking to divorce their husbands.
Ultimately, while the country continues to grow more progressive toward women on a civic level, many of the laws stand as merely symbolic gestures as the country has shown little ability to enforce them according to reports published by the U.S. State Dept. in 2005, 2007 and 2011.
3. Sierra Leone
Forced into illiteracy and poverty through cultural practices of denying women schooling and ownership, the average woman of Sierra Leone doesn’t live beyond 50 years old and many of them, 970 per 100,000, die in childbirth.
Among one of the most harmful cultural practices to take place in Sierra Leone is female circumcision. Practiced in many countries where virginity in a bride is considered a must, female circumcision can take a number of forms but is mainly done to decrease, in the minds of those who practice it, the likelihood that a girl will become sexually active previous to marriage.
In almost all cases the clitoris and outer labia are removed while more severe forms are designed to create a flesh barrier over the vagina. This is done by causing severe injury to the inner and often outer labia and then binding the girl’s legs together for 2 to 4 weeks during which time the skin heals across the vagina. A small item such as a stick is then used to create a hole in the newly created flesh barrier in order to allow urine and menstrual bleeding to escape.
Some of the most dangerous outcomes of female circumcision are early death due to infection and, if a woman reaches childbearing age, increased pain and risk during labor, as reflected in the maternal mortality rates.
With a maternal mortality rate of 1,200 for every 100,000 births and a life expectancy of 48 years for women, Chad ranks high on our list.
In total, 70 percent of Muslim women and 30 percent of Christian women in Chad were reported as having undergone circumcision in 2004 according to the U.S. State Department. In that same year only 20.7 births were performed by skilled health personnel in 2004, according to the World Health Organization.
And while female circumcision is practiced in a number of countries, Chad is especially notorious for the cultural practice of cutting the uvula from the throat of infant girls.
In a 2012 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, researchers announced that dangerous cultural practices including child marriage and ritualistic scarification are widely practiced and accepted in Chad, even among the women it injures. Child marriage in particular targets the female race as it is restricted to young girls with older men. This often results in psychological and physical trauma in the young, pre-pubescent girls and increased HIV infection and death during childbearing as girls become impregnated at early ages.
If you’re a woman in Somalia then you are lucky to live to the ripe old age of 51. You also face a 1,200 in 100,000 chance of dying in childbirth.
Even higher are your chances of suffering rape and other forms of sexual violence at the hands of bandits and rogue militia that roam the ungoverned country.
According to a 2011 UN report on the country, the odds that you will undergo female circumcision are nearly perfect at 95–98 percent—and in the most extreme form.
Obstetric fistulas are a common condition among Somali women and often result in issues of incontinence. As a result, women are frequently unable to control the smell that comes with such problems and are then banned from society for their “uncleanliness”.
Because many clans are nomadic, few women have consistent access to healthcare professionals and nearly all lack funds or even awareness that treatment for such issues exists.
What can you do?
- Spread awareness. Now you know. Tell your friends. Blog, tweet, post. Let the world know what you know. The more societies that become aware and opinionated on issues, the more political and social pressure that exists to change it.
- Donate. There is often little pay in volunteering in refugee camps or in offering free clinics in third world nations. If you don’t have the time but you have the money to help eliminate these issues, there are a number of highly qualified charitable and activist organizations including the International Refugee Committee (Rescue.org) where over 90 cents of every dollar is spent on direct care to those in need. Other charitable organizations working with men and women in these regions are the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR.com), Afghan Women’s Mission (afghanwomenmission.com) and Amnesty International (amnesty.org).
- Use local resources. Organizations such as church groups and local charitable clubs are already in place and just need the right idea and leadership to do truly remarkable projects. Find out what you can do with a group of people by calling organizations like those listed above to find out what supplies could be gathered, money raised or local awareness projects initiated to help the women of the world find safety and success.
A special thank you to WomanStats.org