Reuters recently published a news report, Factbox: Which are the world’s 10 most dangerous countries for women?. The results were the subject of a post at Feminist Philosophers blog, where I occasionally visit and even understand a bit, without being a philosopher nor much of a feminist. I reacted with incredulity to the results.
United States is the 3rd most dangerous country for sexual violence?
Sexual violence is defined by the survey as follows:
“This includes rape as a weapon of war; domestic rape; rape by a stranger; the lack of access to justice in rape cases; sexual harassment and coercion into sex as a form of corruption.”
How often was rape used as a weapon of war in the United States in 2018?
Yes, this fact check—based on investigative journalism that was funded, produced, and published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation—reports that women in the US are more at risk of sexual violence than in Syria! The US is considered more dangerous for women than nations where female genital mutilation is common, and untreated obstetric fistulas ruin lives.
02 Democratic Republic of the Congo
06 South Africa
India versus #MeToo
On the Foundation’s website, I did find a point of light, but bracketed by tragedy. Near Mumbai, two adult men raped a 7 year-old girl as she waited for her parents to pick her up from school. The attack was so brutal that she required hospitalization, but she will survive. The rapists were apprehended and are in custody.
The point of light is India’s Prime Minister Modi. He recently introduced the death penalty for acts of rape of girls under 12 years of age, in response to widespread public demand for such measures. Female children are 40% of the victims of all 40,000 rapes reported in India annually.
In contrast, #MeToo mostly involved women in America’s highest echelons of status and privilege.
To suggest that #MeToo revealed conditions in the US that are comparable to the sexual violence of India’s 16,000 child rapes annually is a harmful misrepresentation. Yet the Thomson Reuters survey did not hesitate to do so.
Sorry to see a respected foundation circulating such flawed & misleading data. The US is NOT worse for sexual violence than Somalia & Congo. Not even close. Why play games?
Women at risk around the world desperately need sober research—not hype & spin.
— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) June 26, 2018
Non-sexual violence supposedly worse in US than Somalia
The survey defined non-sexual violence as “conflict-related violence; domestic, physical and mental abuse”. These are the survey findings.
07 Saudi Arabia
08 Democratic Republic of the Congo
The United States is deemed more dangerous for women than Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.
I am surprised to see Mexico mentioned. Maybe that is due to Mexico’s porous northern border, as violence against women flows southward from the United States?
Immigration sanity check
According to the poll, Guatemala and Honduras are safer, less physically dangerous places for women than the United States. If that is true, then most of the requests for asylum in the US made by women and children fleeing these two countries have no justifiable basis!
If levels of domestic abuse, gang violence, and sexual victimization of women and children in the United States is greater than in El Salvador, then likelihood of harm would be increased—rather than alleviated—by seeking asylum in the US.
The source of these findings about comparative geographic danger to women is a highly respected news organization. Regardless, the results are flawed. Faulty polling methods and shoddy statistical analysis of responses are implausible culprits: A subject matter panel of over 500 experts in women’s rights provided the data from which the final results were derived. Although I wonder; who are these experts?
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 26, 2018
Blame falls on Reuters. Editorial oversight would have been in place throughout the project. The featured results would not have been released prior to vetting and final approval. This was not a minor mistake, but rather, a breach of Reuters standards of accuracy and freedom from bias in journalism.
Why politically motivated surveys are bad
An unrelenting narrative that the United States is SO terrible has been running in the background for years. I have heard it since we invaded Iraq. During the Obama years, I think it was broadly referred to as the end of (maybe the myth of?) American exceptionalism. Outrage is particularly strident now, under the Trump administration. I believe that warped perceptions, combined with agenda-driven media can result in grossly inaccurate investigative reports such as this.
Protecting women’s rights is important! Appeal to emotion (e.g. Trump Derangement Syndrome) should be resisted. Failure to recognize situational bias hurts the effectiveness of advocacy efforts. Regaining credibility is often elusive.
I was disappointed at the lack of methodological detail provided, e.g. criteria to normalize results across disparate country populations and rates of violence. Who were the 548 experts? I will check for further details. Perhaps I will follow-up with a statistical survey design post if I can find more information.