Policies that promote gender equality, safeguards against violence and exploitation and access to healthcare make Canada the best place to be a woman among the world’s biggest economies, a global poll of experts showed yesterday.
Infanticide, child marriage and slavery make India the worst, the same poll said.
Germany, Britain, Australia and France rounded out the top five countries out of the G20 in a perceptions poll of 370 gender specialists conducted by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The US came in sixth, but polarized opinion because of concerns about reproductive rights and affordable healthcare.
At the other end of the scale, Saudi Arabia — where women are well educated, but are banned from driving and only won the right to vote last year — polled second-worst after India, followed by Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico.
“India is incredibly poor, Saudi Arabia is very rich. But there is a commonality and that is that unless you have some special access to privilege, you have a very different future, depending on whether you have an extra X chromosome, or a Y chromosome,” said Nicholas Kristof, journalist and co-author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, commenting on the poll results.
The poll, released ahead of a summit of G20 heads of state to be held in Mexico on Monday and Tuesday, showed the reality for many women in many countries remains grim despite the introduction of laws and treaties on women’s rights, experts said.
“In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes, and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labor,” said Gulshun Rehman, health program development adviser at Save the Children UK, who was one of those polled.
“This is despite a groundbreakingly progressive Domestic Violence Act enacted in 2005 outlawing all forms of violence against women and girls,” Rehman said.
TrustLaw asked aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists with expertise in gender issues to rank the 19 countries of the G20 in terms of the overall best and worst to be a woman.
They also ranked countries in six categories: quality of health, freedom from violence, participation in politics, work place opportunities, access to resources such as education and property rights, and freedom from trafficking and slavery.
Respondents came from 63 countries on five continents and included experts from UN Women, the International Rescue Committee, Plan International, Amnesty USA and Oxfam International, as well as prominent academic institutions and campaigning organizations. Representatives of faith-based organizations were also surveyed.
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.
Canada was perceived to be getting most things right in protecting women’s wellbeing and basic freedoms.
It is more vital than ever to protect women’s freedoms at a time of political upheaval in several parts of the world, some experts said.