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

A recent Reuters news article, Factbox: Which are the world’s 10 most dangerous countries for women? caught my attention. 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:

“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 Factbox article—based on investigative journalism 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 obstetrical 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 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 16,000 child rapes in India is a harmful misrepresentation. Even comparison to the genuinely egregious #MeToo disclosures, e.g. of Congressmen who coerced sexual favors from their fully adult female staff members, is highly inappropriate. Yet the Thomson Reuters survey did not hesitate to do so:

“The survey came after the #MeToo campaign went viral last year, with thousands of women using the social media movement to share stories of sexual harassment or abuse.”

Non-sexual violence worse in US than Somalia

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

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 published 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, or perhaps myth of American exceptionalism. Stridency and outrage is particularly acute 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.

Feminist Philosophers

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll ranked the 10 most dangerous countries for women, based on the responses of experts. They considered gendered issues such as violence, healthcare, and economic access.

Here is a link to the reporting: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-women-dangerous-poll-factbox/factbox-which-are-the-worlds-10-most-dangerous-countries-for-women-idUSKBN1JM01Z

And here is a ranked list of the countries:

  1. India
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Syria
  4. Somalia
  5. Saudi Arabia
  6. Pakistan
  7. Democratic Republic of Congo
  8. Yemen
  9. Nigeria
  10. United States

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Published in: on July 2, 2018 at 7:40 am  Comments (4)  
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Risk perception and reality

This is an excerpt, selected by Moi, from the article Risk perception, a recent post that appeared on the Soapbox Science Blog, Nature Publishing Group.

Symbol of radiation hazard

Universal symbol of radiation and fear. Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes, no matter how right our perceptions feel, we get risk wrong. We worry about some things more than the evidence warrants (vaccines, nuclear radiation, genetically modified food), and less about some threats than the evidence warns (climate change, obesity, using mobile phones when we drive). That produces a Perception Gap, the gap between our fears and the facts.

The Perception Gap produces dangerous personal choices that hurt us and those around us (declining vaccination rates are fueling the resurgence of nearly eradicated diseases). It causes the harm to health of chronic stress (for those who worry more than necessary). And it produces social policies that protect us more from what we’re afraid of than from what in fact threatens us the most (we spend more to protect ourselves from terrorism than heart disease)… which in effect raises our overall risk.

We do have to fear fear itself…too much or too little. So we need to understand how our subjective risk perception works, in order to recognize and avoid its pitfalls.

Here was the take-away for me: Societal risk management has to recognize the risk of risk misperception–  recognizing the risk that arises when our fears don’t match the evidence. This is truly the risk of The Perception Gap. It has always been relevant, and becomes so once again in light of the recent E-coli outbreak in northern Europe. The Guardian UK used that as a starting point for a well-written and up-to-date article about the hazards of risk misperception and the consequences of irrational behavior.

Kahneman and Tversky did extensive research on this topic. I am not concerned whether articles like the one referenced above are derivative, in the sense of revisiting past work. Possibly it is an application in the context of current events. Or it may be entirely original new work. My concern is solely that there is an awareness of the reality, and that it be acted upon.