Across the world, women suffer discrimination and violence of all kinds, including rape, sexual violence, unemployment, and lack of access to leadership opportunities. Thus, women are more vulnerable to discrimination, gender inequality, and stereotypes than men. According to the United Nations, about 87,000 women were murdered globally by people closest to them, amounting to an average of six women killed per hour. Below are the riskiest countries for women according to the Women, Peace, and Security Index (2019/2020).
- Yemen - 0.351
- Afghanistan - 0.373
- Syria - 0.416
- Pakistan - 0.460
- South Sudan - 0.479
- Iraq - 0.490
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) - 0.512
- The Central African Republic (CAR) - 0.513
- Mali - 0.539
- Libya -0.546
About The Index
The Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Index measures and ranks the well-being of women in all the countries of the world. It is published by the Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security and The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). The Index uses the 3 basic domensions of inclusion, justice and security to represent the well-being of women across countries of the world. These dimensions are quantified with the help of 11 indicators to generate a score for each country.
A score of 1 is the best possible score on this Index. According to the latest WPS index, Norway ranks number 1 with a score of 0.904 while Yemen ranks the last with a score of only 0.351. The United States ranks 19 on the list with a score of 0.851. India, the country that ranked number 1 on the list of the world's most dangeorus countries published by the Thomas Reuters Foundation in 2018, holds the rank of 133 on this Index.
1. Yemen - 0.351
As per the Index, Yemen is the most dangerous country for women. The Middle Eastern nation is a patriarchal society that subjects women to all forms of discrimination, including negative stereotypes, economic inequality, and discriminatory legal systems. As of 2017, women in Yemen do not hold most of the cultural, social, and economic rights. They are not allowed to exercise full civil and political rights. Women are also the victim of discriminatory laws. For instance, a woman is entitled to half of the amount a man would be compensated as blood money. Also, the law exposes “little girls” to early marriage, prohibits women from leaving their homes without the husband’s permission, and allows men to have sex with their wives whenever they please, without giving the same right to the wives. Because of early marriages and other forms of discrimination, girls are less likely to go to school than boys. The current crisis in the country has further worsened the condition of women of Yemen.
2. Afghanistan - 0.373
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries for women 20 years after the Taliban’s overthrow. The most recent news about the Taliban taking over Kabul is awful to the millions of women in the country. Under the Taliban’s regime, education for girls and women was outlawed. Although women and girls gained some freedom under the current regime, the country remains unsafe for them. Most women experience most forms of abuse, with 90% of the women experiencing domestic violence (WHO 2015 report). Domestic violence ranges from murder, physical, psychological, and verbal abuse. Freedom of movement is limited for girls under their fathers’ authority and women under their husbands. Although women are employed at every level in the country, they account for less than 20% of the labor force, with most of them paid less than the men doing the same job. Other forms of discrimination against women include forced and arranged marriages and prohibition from marrying a foreign non-Muslim.
3. Syria - 0.416
Women and girls in the war-torn nation of Syria face all manner of challenges in their daily lives, with those in northern and northeastern parts experiencing serious threats. Syrian women are a target for both security forces and extremists who violate and strip them of their rights. The country ranks badly for reproductive rights, gender violence, treatment of women in the family, and economic inclusion. The Syrian government has detained over 3,000 women under worse conditions, with most female prisoners denied access to medical treatment. Some women and girls have been detained as hostages because their male relatives cannot be found. Extremist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS undermine the freedom and rights of girls and women by forcing them to wear hijab and abayas and punishing those who do not adhere to the dress code. According to the 2018 Reuters report, Syria ranks third in the risk of sexual abuse to women.
4. Pakistan - 0.460
Women in Pakistan face risks from traditional, religious, and cultural practices and domestic abuse and discrimination. Violence against women includes sexual violence and physical abuse, mostly by intimate partners. Over 70% of the women in Pakistan suffer at least one form of domestic violence, with over 5,000 dying annually from such violence. In 2017, the country recorded 746 honor killings. Non-Muslim girls are often kidnapped, abused, forced to become Muslims, and then married off. Of the South Asian countries, Pakistani women are the most discriminated against and have the least access to mobile phones. In Pakistan, only 7% of women have bank accounts compared to 35% of men.
5. South Sudan - 0.479
South Sudan is Africa’s most dangerous country for women, with the conflict situation exposing the female gender to all forms of evil. The war has displaced millions of South Sudanese, mainly women and children, exposing them to famine and other dangers. The fragile newest nation in Africa has the world's highest prevalence of intimate violence at 47%. Girls and women are subjected to high levels of violence and have limited means of addressing the crimes against them. The violence against women has become even more pronounced amidst the ongoing civil war, with soldiers using torture and sexual violence as their strategy. In South Sudan, rape is used as a weapon of war. Several women have been kidnapped, raped, and forced into slavery. Besides violence, women have limited access to financial and economic resources and are rarely included in leadership positions.
6. Iraq - 0.490
Although the Iraqi constitution outlaws all forms of abuse and violence against any gender, the penal code discriminates against women by allowing husbands to punish their wives. The penal code also exempts those who commit sexual assault from persecution if they marry the victim. The victims are often discouraged from reporting sexual violence and assault to the authority to avoid “bringing shame” to their families. Instead, they are encouraged to seek an alternative resolution mechanism, which is often biased. Although the law states that only marriage is for adults aged 18 and above, the same law allows girls aged 15 to be married as long as the judge authorizes the marriage. The family law also discriminates against women concerning child custody, divorce, and inheritance. A woman’s testimony in a court of law is worth half of a man’s testimony in some cases. According to 2014 Human Rights Watch, thousands of women have been jailed in Iraq without charges. Honor killing is also a serious threat to women in Iraq, with over 6,000 women forced to commit suicide or killed in Iraq Kurdistan in 2007.
7. The Democratic Republic Of The Congo - 0.512
The DRC is Africa’s second most dangerous country for women, partly because of the persistent conflict and traditional practices. The women are discriminated against and face acts of violence, including physical, psychological, and sexual abuses. In DRC, rape and violence against women are used as weapons against communities. The decades of war have led to the rape of over one million women. According to the UN Women Africa, over 50% of women in DRC are domestic violence survivors, and 40% have either been injured or threatened. About 39% of the women in the DRC were forced into early marriage before their 18th birthday. Besides violence, women also undergo harmful traditional practices, including FGM. Due to extreme poverty and lack of jobs, women are forced to work under unfavorable conditions, including in mines.
8. The Central African Republic - 0.513
The CAR has suffered decades of violence, with clashes mainly between the government and the armed non-state group. The conflict has not only disrupted government operations but also affected millions of women in the country. Women and children have been forced to flee their homes and seek shelter in the IDP camps and neighboring countries. Women’s greatest fear in the CAR is sexual violence. The armed groups around the country and in settlement camps often take advantage of women and girls by sexually assaulting them. Of the 9,200 gender-based violence reported in 2020, 24% was sexual violence, committed mainly by the armed groups and the rest by the people known to the victims. The military and the armed groups sometimes torture women to reveal the whereabouts of their husbands or sons.
9. Mali - 0.539
Although violence against women is rampant in Mali, the vice is often silenced by religious discourse and social norms. One in two women in Mali aged 15-40 years has suffered sexual or physical violence, with 79% of women considering violence against women normal. Rarely do women report such violence against them, and if they do report, the community pressures them to withdraw the case before conviction. Although illegal, forced marriage often takes place in Mali, with young girls pressured into such marriages. About 20% of girls below the age of 15 have been forced into early marriages. Besides violence, most women are likely to encounter harmful traditional practices like FGM, with over 90% of the women undergoing the practice.
10. Libya - 0.546
Libya has a history of conflict and has struggled to end violent conflicts close to a decade after Gaddafi’s ouster. As a result, women have lost gains made in political and women’s rights empowerment. The conflict has displaced tens of thousands of people, of which most are women and children. The women in settlement camps face several risks, including lack of privacy, safety, and harassment from the authorities and militia groups. The conflict has also placed women at risk of sexual harassment and violence, forced prostitution, and gender-based violence. Besides settlement camps, GBV and sexual violence are widespread throughout Libya, of which most of such acts of violence go unreported. Women are abducted from the streets or homes and subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. During conflicts, rape is used as a weapon of war to terrorize, punish, and warn the rival group.
Dominant Factors Threatening Women Safety
An analysis of the Index scores shows that Western Asia and Africa are the most dangerous regions for women, with some countries in these regions having the worst record for discrimination and violence against women. Countries like the DRC, CAR, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya are conflict-prone areas, where violence against women is used as war weapons. For instance, a group may rape and torture women perceived as rivals to send a message. Besides conflicts, the dangerous regions for women, especially the Middle East, Western Asia, and North Africa, practice strict Islamic laws, or Sharia, which tend to favor men compared to women. Other factors contributing to insecurity for women in the three regions are poverty and the unwillingness of the regimes to embrace women’s rights.