Most dire conditions for women in Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan

Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan are the three most dangerous countries in the world for women, according to a panel of gender experts assembled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Women live perilously in many developing countries today, but on top of the list is Afghanistan, the experts said, with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, minimal access to basic health care and education and scarcely any economic rights for women and girls. Eighty-seven percent of Afghan women are illiterate and one in 11 dies in childbirth, Unicef estimates. As many as 8 in 10 face forced marriages.

In Congo, vastly different threats prevail for women. According to Keshat Bachan of Plan International, a private organization specializing in child poverty, the levels of sexual violence and rape there “are simply the highest in the world.” On an average day, 1,152 Congolese women are raped, according to estimates published in The American Journal of Public Health. A married woman is powerless to sign any legal documents without her husband’s authorization.

The experts ranked Pakistan third, based on religious traditions that are harmful to women. More than 1,000 women a year are victims of so-called honor killings and many more are victims of acid attacks, child marriage and abusive punishments, including stoning, human rights activists report.

Thomson Reuters asked more than 200 aid professionals, academics, health workers, policy makers, journalists and development specialists from five continents to rank countries on their overall perception of danger for women as well as by six risk categories, from health to violence to religious and other factors.

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