Pakistan ranked third in survey on violence against women

* Afghanistan tops expert poll of dangers to women

* Pakistan blighted by acid attacks and ‘honour killings’

* India cited for trafficking and sexual slavery

LONDON: A global survey of perceptions regarding violence against women has ranked Pakistan third.

Violence, dismal healthcare and brutal poverty make Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country for women, with Congo a close second due to horrific levels of rape, a Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll said on Wednesday. Pakistan, India and Somalia ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the survey of perceptions of threats ranging from domestic abuse and economic discrimination to female foeticide, genital mutilation and acid attacks.

“Ongoing conflict, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices combined make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women,” said Clementina Cantoni, a Pakistan-based aid worker with ECHO, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department. Pakistan ranked third largely on the basis of cultural, tribal and religious practices harmful to women. These include acid attacks, child and forced marriage and punishment or retribution by stoning or other physical abuse. “Pakistan has some of the highest rates of dowry murder, so-called honour killings and early marriage,” said Divya Bajpai, reproductive health adviser at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. Some 1,000 women and girls die in honour killings annually, according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. India ranked fourth primarily due to female foeticide, infanticide and human trafficking.

In 2009, India’s then-home secretary Madhukar Gupta estimated that 100 million people, mostly women and girls, were involved in trafficking in India that year. “The practice is common but lucrative so it goes untouched by government and police,” said Cristi Hegranes, founder of the Global Press institute, which trains women in developing countries to be journalists.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), still reeling from a 1998-2003 war and accompanying humanitarian disaster that killed 5.4 million people, came second mainly due to staggering levels of sexual violence in the lawless east. More than 400,000 women are raped in the country each year, according to a recent study by US researchers. The United Nations has called Congo the rape capital of the world.

Somalia ranked fifth due to a catalogue of dangers including high maternal mortality, rape and female genital mutilation, along with limited access to education, healthcare and economic resources. “The most dangerous thing a woman in Somalia can do is to become pregnant. When a woman becomes pregnant her life is 50-50 because there is no antenatal care at all,” Somali women’s minister Maryan Qasim told TrustLaw. reuters

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