Gender experts responding to a global poll rank India as the worst for women among the G-20 countries
By Team FI
India has been ranked the worst country for women, amongst the G20, by a global poll conducted by Trust Law, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Trust Law asked 370 gender experts from 63 countries – mainly aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers and journalists – to rank the 19 countries of the G20 in terms of the overall best and worst to be a woman in.
The experts opine that the poll shows the grim ground reality of a woman’s life despite the presence of rights granted by the constitution and judiciary laws. The poll has ranked Canada first considering factors like women’s safety, access to health care and education. Germany has landed the second rank, with Britain following. These are followed by Australia, France, United States, Japan, Italy, Argentina, South Korea, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, China, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia and in the 19th position is India. The EU, which is a member of the G20 as an economic grouping along with several of its constituent countries, was not included in the survey.
While the poll was based on perceptions and not statistics, U.N. data supports the experts’ views. According to the UN Population Fund, India recorded 56,000 maternal deaths in 2010, perhaps an outcome of diminishing public health care system in India. According to a study by International Center for Research on Women (2010) 44.5% girls were married before 19 years of age. UNICEF’s Global Report Card on Adolescents 2012, reveals that 57% adolescent boys and 53% of girls in India think it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife.
In Saudi Arabia, factors like – women are not allowed to drive, women were given limited voting right only last year, 64.6% women with tertiary education are unemployed, the fact that the law against violence against women lacks teeth because a man’s testimony is worth that of two women in court – placed the oil rich country as the second worst. China which has one of the highest male to female sex ratios at birth is ranked 14, just below Russia. According to the 2008 World Bank report, in China, with a culture that prefers boys over girls, 1.09 million girls dead or missing at birth due to infanticide.
However, the poll has been criticized by some stating that it promoted popular but inaccurate perceptions. Dr. Kathleen Lahey, of the Queen’s University, Canada, points out that the countries of Germany, Argentina, Australia and Brazil have a woman as a head of state or prime minister and therefore they are perceived to be a progressive society. She points out however that in Germany, only 12.5% board members of publicly listed companies are women and there is 21.6 % gender pay gap for full time workers while in Brazil, only 9 per cent of MPs are women.
The Trust Law poll has ranked the United States in sixth place overall. The increasing number of women who have no access to affordable health care and the recently reignited reproductive rights debate placed US below other western countries like Germany, UK, France, and Australia. Terry O’Neill, president of the Washington-based National Organization for Women, is surprised that US has got the sixth place pointing out to the Globe and Mail that the U.S. is one of only seven countries that haven’t ratified the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The G-20, which refers to the informal group of 20 major economies in the world – 19 countries plus the European Union, is all set for its annual summit being held this year in Mexico on June 18-19. The poll which precedes the summit has experts opine that it is more vital than ever to protect women’s freedoms at a time of political upheaval in several parts of the world. “Times of political transition, we’ve learned the hard way, can also be times of fragility, and when rights for women and girls can be rolled back instead of advanced,” says Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch.