An ongoing war, dismal health care and extreme poverty make Afghanistan the most dangerous country in the world for women, according to a global survey.
Congo was a close second due to horrific levels of rape, according to the poll by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Pakistan, India and Somalia rounded out the top five.
The poll, released Wednesday, surveyed perceptions of threats ranging from domestic abuse and economic discrimination to female fetus killing, genital mutilation and acid attacks.
"Ongoing conflict, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices combined make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women," TrustLaw quoted Antonella Notari, head of Women Change Makers, a group that supports women social entrepreneurs around the world, as saying.
"In addition, women who do attempt to speak out or take on public roles that challenge ingrained gender stereotypes of what's acceptable for women to do or not, such as working as policewomen or news broadcasters, are often intimidated or killed," she said.
TrustLaw asked 213 gender experts from five continents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks: health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking. Poll respondents included aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists.
"Hidden dangers — like a lack of education or terrible access to healthcare — are as deadly, if not more so, than physical dangers like rape and murder which usually grab the headlines,” Monique Villa, chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was quoted as saying by The Guardian newspaper. "In Afghanistan, for instance, women have a one in 11 chance of dying in childbirth. In the top five countries, basic human rights are systematically denied to women.
"Empowering women tackles the very roots of poverty. In the developing world when a woman works, her children are better fed and better educated because they spend their money for their family."