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World's most dangerous locales for women: Why is India so high on the list?

A new study ranked Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan as more dangerous for women than Somalia. Rights activists say they're encouraged by an emerging public awareness of problems women face.

By Correspondent / June 16, 2011

A woman weeps as she sits outside her house after police arrested her male family members, following Saturday's clash between farmers and police, at Bhatta Parsaul village in Gautam Buddha Nagar district of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh May 8.

Adnan Abidi/Reuters/File

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Kabul, Afghanistan

A study released this week named Afghanistan the most dangerous country for women, with Pakistan and India following closely behind. But while serious problems exist for women in these places, women’s rights activists say there is also an emerging public awareness in all three countries about problems that were previously seen as too taboo to address in public.

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“If you look at the Bollywood films and you see the fashion magazines coming out of both countries [Pakistan and India], you wouldn’t believe that there are other women locked up at home or their mobility is severely curtailed, but that is the case,” says Simi Kamal, chief of party for the gender equity program at the Aurat Foundation, headquartered in Islamabad.

“On the one hand, you will see many women out in the professional world – they own businesses, they’re in the banking sector, they’re in the teaching sector, all of those things – yet there are other women who have to face a whole series of harassments.”

The findings were released on Wednesday based on a poll conducted by TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s legal news service. It asked 213 gender experts to rank countries by the perception of danger to women. It also looked at threats related to health, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources, and trafficking. The Democratic Republic of Congo was listed as the second most-dangerous country for women.

Afghanistan

Women’s issues in Afghanistan have long been at the forefront of international human rights concerns. Especially during the rule of the Taliban, abuses were extremely well-documented.

Experts say there has been some progress over the past 10 years, with women increasingly taking roles in politics. Still, Afghan women, especially those in rural areas, face a number of rights abuses, such as forced marriages or being traded between families to settle disputes.

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