March 31, 2023

IHT Rendezvous: The Best Countries to Be a Woman

A laborer breastfeeding her child on the banks of the Balason River in India. A new survey ranks India behind even Saudi Arabia in terms of gender equality.Rupak De Chowdhuri/ReutersA laborer breastfeeding her child on the banks of the Balason River in India. A new survey ranks India behind even Saudi Arabia in terms of gender equality.

India, a country best-known for its rising economic might, is the worst place to be a woman among the world’s biggest economies, and Canada the best, according to a survey of experts published Wednesday.

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The Female Factor

Examining the role and impact of women in society

The Group of 20 survey by TrustLaw, a legal news service of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, found that a combination of infanticide, child marriage and slavery left India at the bottom of the ranking, lagging even Saudi Arabia, where women are still not allowed to drive and only gained the vote in 2011.

The poll of 370 gender experts also held some surprises, finding that Canada’s policy mix giving women access to health care and opportunities and protecting them against violence made it more egalitarian than some European nations and the United States.

Canada and the United States may share a border, a language and much cultural affinity, but if women face broadly similar situations in terms of education and economic opportunity in the two countries, they are far apart in the area of gender equality, the experts said.

Poor access to health care and a highly polarizing debate about reproductive rights in the United States were two factors that kept America out of the top five, ranking it sixth in the poll, after Canada, Germany, Britain, Australia and France, the survey found.

“Canada leads the pack with its promotion of women’s access and opportunities across various sectors of society, including education, economic participation and health care,” Sarah Degnan Kambou, president of the International Center for Research on Women in Washington, which took part in the survey, told TrustLaw.

The survey assesses gender equality in the G20 countries in six categories: quality of health, freedom from violence, participation in politics, workplace opportunities, access to resources and freedom from trafficking and slavery.

It is the latest of several studies that reflect poorly on the situation of women in the United States, the world’s largest economy.

Last month a report by Save the Children suggested that America is one of the worst places to be a mother among rich countries, pointing to what it said were one of the highest maternal mortality rates and worst breastfeeding environments among developed countries.

1. Canada
2. Germany
3. Britain
4. Australia
5. France
6. United States
7. Japan
8. Italy
9. Argentina
10. South Korea
11. Brazil
12. Turkey
13. Russia
14. China
15. Mexico
16. South Africa
17. Indonesia
18. Saudi Arabia
19. India

— TrustLaw

According to World Health Organization statistics used in Save The Children’s 2012 Mother’s Index, the lifetime risk of a woman in the United States to die from a pregnancy-related or birth-related cause stands at 1 in 2,100. Only three other countries categorized as “more developed nations” by Save the Children, rank lower: Albania, Moldova and Russia.

“On most of the health indicators, whether it’s maternal mortality, child mortality or life expectancy, the U.S. does much worse than you would expect,” said Patrick Watt, global campaign and advocacy director for Save the Children. “The U.S. spends a lot on health as a percentage of G.D.P. but is very inefficient in translating that into health gains.”

The TrustLaw survey was conducted in 19 G20 nations. It did not include the European Union, which is a member of the G20 but whose 27 member-states have greatly varied gender policies.

The other members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United States.

Are you surprised by the survey results? Is gender equality ever compatible with restrictions on abortion? What is a stronger determinant of women’s opportunities in a country, economic development or culture? What other factors do you think the experts should have taken into account?

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