Thursday, 16 June 2011
How is this possible in the 21st Century?
ELEANOR HALL: Afghanistan has topped the list in a poll of the most dangerous countries in the world for women.
The international legal aid centre TrustLaw surveyed more than 200 gender experts.
And the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch says she was surprised by the appearance of India high on the list as Sarah Dingle reports
SARAH DINGLE: No nation would want to be top of this list.
The TrustLaw poll found that Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world but some of the lowest opportunities for women to access education or healthcare.
One judge said the lack of hope that the situation would improve meant Afghan women faced an even worse situation than women in other troubled nations.
Linda Bartolomei is from the Centre for Refugee Research at the University of New South Wales.
LINDA BARTOLOMEI: Women from Afghanistan along with their families have been fleeing as refugees very topically to Australia for many years. So tragically I am not particularly surprised.
SARAH DINGLE: Ms Bartolomei says she's worked with female Afghan refugees in Australia and overseas.
Recently she visited a large community of Afghan refugee women in New Delhi, India, a country which also features on the list for its rates of human trafficking and female infanticide.
LINDA BARTOLOMEI: The stories they shared of rape and sexual abuse in Afghanistan, of the denial of women's rights were really quite horrifying.
SARAH DINGLE: Coming in a close second to Afghanistan is the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC.
TrustLaw's 213 gender experts including aid workers, health professionals and journalists, said the ranking was mainly due to staggering levels of sexual violence in the country's east.
Last month one of the authors of a study into this issue found that on average four women were raped in the DRC every five minutes.
Linda Bartolomei says these numbers are horrifying.
LINDA BARTOLOMEI: We worked in a refugee camp in Africa where there are a number of women from Congo.
And I do now remember being deeply moved by an account of a woman who was parenting not only her own large numbers of children but also the child of one of her daughters which was a child of rape in Congo.
And in discussion with that family I came to learn that this was actually something that was very common.
SARAH DINGLE: Pakistan and India were ranked the third and fourth most dangerous countries in the world for women respectively.
The South Asia director of Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly says at first she was taken aback
MEENAKSHI GANGULY: They were looking at women at risk which is just survival risk. Now as soon as you consider survival you will look at South Asia and you realise that the child, the girl child is at risk every stage of her life because she is just not as valued as her brother is.
SARAH DINGLE: Meenakshi Ganguly says there's also been a recent spate of honour killings against women in India as arranged marriages become less common.
MEENAKSHI GANGULY: The truth is that as India advances and as women step out they do find their own partners and those partners are not often popular with their relatives. And in an effort to dissuade them there have been attacks on both women and men who have married out of choice.
This is a new phenomenon. This is sort of almost like the cost of progress.
SARAH DINGLE: She says globally attitudes towards women have to improve. But also people who violate the law have to be seen to be brought to justice.
ELEANOR HALL: Sarah Dingle reporting.