A recent perceptions poll conducted by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation found that Canada was perceived to be the best place for a woman among the world’s biggest economies.
This was based of policies that promoted gender equality, safeguards against violence and exploitation and access to healthcare, whilst India was rated lowest on the poll due to infanticide, child marriage and slavery.
Germany, Britain, Australia and France rounded out the top five countries out of the Group of 20, and the United States came in sixth but polarized opinion due to concerns about reproductive rights and affordable healthcare.
At the other end of the scale was Saudi Arabia – where women are well educated but are banned from driving and only won the right to vote in 2011. It placed second-worst after India, and followed by Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico.
This interesting fact puts a myth to rest that the wealth of a country is reflected in the quality of life of its people – India is one of the poorest countries around, and Saudi Arabia is very rich yet the commonality is that women in these countries are less privileged from their male counterparts and have very different futures.
The poll, released ahead of a summit of G20 heads of state to be held in Mexico June 18-19, showed the reality for many women in many countries remains grim despite the introduction of laws and treaties on women’s rights.
In India, despite a groundbreakingly progressive Domestic Violence Act enacted in 2005 outlawing all forms of violence against women and girls – there are cases of females still being sold as chattels, married off as children, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes, exploitation and abused as domestic slave labor.
The poll 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.
Canada was perceived to be getting most things right in protecting women’s wellbeing and basic freedoms.
“Having an understanding of Canadian culture and tracking the work they’re doing around violence against women and gender equality, I believe that Canada really has been emerging as a model for what most countries should aspire to for a long time,” said Jimmie Briggs, journalist, author and founder of the Man Up Campaign that works to engage youth to stop violence against women and girls.
6. United States
10. South Korea
16. South Africa
18. Saudi Arabia