Most dangerous nations for women in 2018: US in top 10

Reuters recently published a news report, Factbox: Which are the world’s 10 most dangerous countries for women?. The results were the subject of a post at Feminist Philosophers blog, where I occasionally visit and even understand a bit, without being a philosopher nor much of a feminist. I reacted with incredulity to the results.

United States is the 3rd most dangerous country for sexual violence?

Sexual violence is defined by the survey as follows:

“This includes rape as a weapon of war; domestic rape; rape by a stranger; the lack of access to justice in rape cases; sexual harassment and coercion into sex as a form of corruption.”

How often was rape used as a weapon of war in the United States in 2018?

Yes, this fact check—based on investigative journalism that was funded, produced, and published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation—reports that women in the US are more at risk of sexual violence than in Syria! The US is considered more dangerous for women than nations where female genital mutilation is common, and untreated obstetric fistulas ruin lives.

Top 10
01 India
02 Democratic Republic of the Congo
03 USA
03 Syria
05 Congo
06 South Africa
07 Afghanistan
07 Pakistan
09 Mexico
10 Nigeria
10 Egypt
10 Somalia

India versus #MeToo

On the Foundation’s website, I did find a point of light, but bracketed by tragedy. Near Mumbai, two adult men raped a 7 year-old girl as she waited for her parents to pick her up from school. The attack was so brutal that she required hospitalization, but she will survive. The rapists were apprehended and are in custody.

The point of light is India’s Prime Minister Modi. He recently introduced the death penalty for acts of rape of girls under 12 years of age, in response to widespread public demand for such measures. Female children are 40% of the victims of all 40,000 rapes reported in India annually.

In contrast, #MeToo mostly involved women in America’s highest echelons of status and privilege.

two women and man laughing

Gwyneth Paltrow and Harvey Weinstein: Hillary Clinton political supporters

woman hugs smiling man

Gwyneth wins Academy Award (1999)

To suggest that #MeToo revealed conditions in the US that are comparable to the sexual violence of India’s 16,000 child rapes annually is a harmful misrepresentation. Yet the Thomson Reuters survey did not hesitate to do so.

Non-sexual violence supposedly worse in US than Somalia

The survey defined non-sexual violence as “conflict-related violence; domestic, physical and mental abuse”. These are the survey findings.

Top 10
01 Afghanistan
02 Syria
03 India
04 Yemen
05 Pakistan
06 USA
07 Saudi Arabia
08 Democratic Republic of the Congo
09 Mexico
09 Somalia

The United States is deemed more dangerous for women than Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

I am surprised to see Mexico mentioned. Maybe that is due to Mexico’s porous northern border, as violence against women flows southward from the United States?

Immigration sanity check

According to the poll, Guatemala and Honduras are safer, less physically dangerous places for women than the United States. If that is true, then most of the requests for asylum in the US made by women and children fleeing these two countries have no justifiable basis!

If levels of domestic abuse, gang violence, and sexual victimization of women and children in the United States is greater than in El Salvador, then likelihood of harm would be increased—rather than alleviated—by seeking asylum in the US.

The source of these findings about comparative geographic danger to women is a highly respected news organization. Regardless, the results are flawed. Faulty polling methods and shoddy statistical analysis of responses are implausible culprits: A subject matter panel of over 500 experts in women’s rights provided the data from which the final results were derived. Although I wonder; who are these experts?

Blame falls on Reuters. Editorial oversight would have been in place throughout the project. The featured results would not have been released prior to vetting and final approval. This was not a minor mistake, but rather, a breach of Reuters standards of accuracy and freedom from bias in journalism.

Why politically motivated surveys are bad

An unrelenting narrative that the United States is SO terrible has been running in the background for years. I have heard it since we invaded Iraq. During the Obama years, I think it was broadly referred to as the end of (maybe the myth of?) American exceptionalism. Outrage is particularly strident now, under the Trump administration. I believe that warped perceptions, combined with agenda-driven media can result in grossly inaccurate investigative reports such as this.

Protecting women’s rights is important! Appeal to emotion (e.g. Trump Derangement Syndrome) should be resisted. Failure to recognize situational bias hurts the effectiveness of advocacy efforts. Regaining credibility is often elusive.

Methodology

I was disappointed at the lack of methodological detail provided, e.g. criteria to normalize results across disparate country populations and rates of violence. Who were the 548 experts? I will check for further details. Perhaps I will follow-up with a statistical survey design post if I can find more information.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Imho one result of the “narrative that the United States is SO terrible” on issues where it is not necessarily the case is that works as a distraction.

    When you have headlines like this it takes the focus away from a crumbling infrastructure, military industrial complex, lobbyist making policy, etc.


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