Women at ‘Extreme Risk’ in 80 Countries

Human Wrongs Watch

By Jutta Wolf* – IDN-InDepth News 

Berlin – A new study on the extent of protection of women and girls has revealed that the risk of human rights abuses, such as sexual violence, discrimination, trafficking and sexual exploitation, are at “extreme” levels in more than 40 percent of the 197 countries around the world.

Rape victims receive treatment at Panzi hospital in Bukavu, DR Congo | Credit: UN

The Women’s and Girls’ Right Index (WGRI), released by risk analysis and mapping company Maplecroft, discloses that the rights of women and girls are at “extreme risk” in 80 countries, including 33 from sub-Saharan Africa, nearly all of the Middle East and North Africa region and many emerging economies.

The ten countries posing most risk to the rights of women are Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, DR Congo, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Burundi, Haiti and Nigeria.

At the opposite end of the scale, only 5 percent of countries rank in the low risk category, including: Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand. However, even in these countries, some issues persisted, including so-called honour-related crimes and forced marriage.

Complicity in the Violation of Women

Complicity in the violation of women’s and girls’ rights in fast-growing emerging economies poses particular risks to global companies operating in those countries. These include: Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines, China, Egypt, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, India and Turkey, all of which are rated “extreme risk” in the WGRI.

Risks of complicity in violations committed by state security forces or other actors in these countries include sexual violence, discrimination in employment, child labour, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

An important finding of the WGRI relates to the conduct of state and private security forces that are employed by companies in the protection of high value assets, such as oil drilling operations, mines or plantations.

Rape by Security Forces

The British-based risk analyst Maplecroft refers to evidence of widespread patterns of rape by security forces in countries with weak governance structures, including the resource-rich countries of DR Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Myanmar.

All countries rated “extreme risk” for the fifth year running in the WGRI pose particular risks of complicity to business. A recent case was uncovered in July 2011 by a UN Investigation Mission that found soldiers of the Armed Forces of the DR Congo (FARDC) had perpetrated sexual violence, including rape, against 47 women, including one minor in Bushani and Kalambahiro in Masisi Territory, North Kivu in January and February 2011.

Due to poor reporting environments, precise figures for sexual violence in these countries are difficult to obtain and vary widely.

1,152 Women and Girls, Raped in DR Congo… Every Day

However, in May 2011, the American Journal of Public Health estimated that 1,152 women and girls are raped every day in DR Congo, whilst the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 200,000 women and girls have been raped in the country over the past five years.

Adolescent girls are most vulnerable to violations that include female genital mutilation (FGM). According to 2011 data available from the Girls Discovered website, a web-based repository of data on girls, developed in partnership between Maplecroft, Nike Foundation http://nikefoundation.org/ and United Nations Foundation, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa show high levels of gender violence including FGM.

In some countries, such as Sierra Leone, Somalia and Guinea, FGM can affect as many as 80-90 percent of girls.

Responsible Businesses Can Mitigate the Risks

“Achieving gender equality is a basic human right and a crucial part of development,” states Maplecroft Analyst, Siobhan Tuohy-Smith.

“Responsible businesses can play an important part by identifying and mitigating these risks in their supply chains through the monitoring of human rights and instigation of due diligence processes. They can also actively work with civil society, international organisations and governments to support the delivery of projects advancing and protecting women’s and girl’s human rights.”

The WGRI is one of 23 indices to feature in the fifth annual Human Rights Risk Atlas, which will be released on International Human Rights Day on December 10t, 2011.

144 Countries Ranked in the “Extreme” and “High Risk” Categories

The Atlas has been developed by Maplecroft as a tool for multinational companies to monitor potential risks of complicity in human rights abuses throughout operations and supply chains.

The index also shows minor improvements for the protection of women and girls globally. Fewer countries, 144 compared to 156 last year, ranked in the “extreme” and “high risk” categories, representing an 8 percent annual decrease.

However, according to the risk analyst, this only reflects a minor improvement and widespread violence and discrimination continues to be a major issue throughout the emerging and developing economies.

*This report was first published by IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That MattersGo to Original

2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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