The 22 Arab States Where It’s Hardest To Be A Woman

While Arab women have been at the forefront of the Middle East’s uprisings, a new poll finds that sexual violence, female genital mutilation, and legal discrimination continue to undermine advances in gender equality around the region.

Egypt is the worst Arab state to be a woman, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s 2013 poll on women’s rights in 22 Arab states. The poll studied violence against women, female family rights, reproductive rights, female integration into society, and attitudes towards women in politics and the economy. The study assessed 21 Arab League members, as well as Syria, which the Arab League suspended in 2011. Gender experts conducted the poll, and based questions on the U.N. Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Reactions to the poll’s rankings have ranged from the enraged to the unsurprised. All in all, the poll finds that the outlook is not good in the fight for women’s rights. Here’s the Thomson Reuters ranking, from worst to best:

1. Egypt

Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

Up to 99.3% of Egyptian women and girls are subject to sexual harassment, while an estimated 91% are victims of female genital mutilation, the study found. It called out mass sexual assault of women at political protests as a particularly disturbing phenomenon.

Pictured here is an Egyptian woman at a protest wearing a sign that reads, “No to harassment.”

2. Iraq

Khalid Mohammed / AP

There are 0 women in Iraqi politics. To obtain a passport, Iraqi women need a close male relative’s permission.

Pictured here an Iraqi woman displays her ink-stained finger at a polling center in Fallujah in June, 2013.

3. Saudi Arabia

Fahad Shadeed / Reuters

Women in Saudi Arabia still cannot legally drive. Women who report rape or sexual assaults may be charged with adultery instead.

Pictured here is a Saudi woman during the Eid Al Adha holiday.

4. Syria

Stoyan Nenov / Reuters

Over a million female Syrian refugees are registered with UNHCR. The legal age for females to marry in Syria is 17; however, in the refugee camps there are reports of Syrian girls as young as 12 being married.

Pictured here a Syrian refugee holds her daughter at a detention centre in Turkey.

5. Yemen

Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

In Yemen, 53% of young girls complete primary school (compared to 72% of boys). Skilled helpers attend only 36% of live births, and a reported 210 mothers die for every 100,000 live births.

Pictured here a woman holds her malnourished boy at a feeding centre in northern Yemen.

6. Sudan

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

In Sudan, the legal age for a female to marry is 10. On average, 1 in 31 women will die from pregnancy; there are a reported 730 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live ones.

Pictured here is a Nuba woman at a makeshift hospital in South Kordofan, Sudan.

7. Lebanon

Jamal Saidi / Reuters

The Lebanese penal code allows a rapist to avoid punishment by marrying his victim. A woman who performs an illegal abortion faces up to 7 years in prison. (Abortions are legal only in rare cases when the mother’s life is at risk.)

Pictured here a man kisses a woman at a protest demanding the legalization of civil marriage in Lebanon.

8. The Palestinian Territories

Majdi Mohammed / AP

Just 17% of women in the Palestinian Territories are employed, though women have a literacy rate of 92.6%. The legal minimum age for females to marry is 15 in the West Bank and 17 in the Gaza Strip.

Pictured here an Israeli border police officer checks the bag of a Palestinian woman in Jerusalem.

9. Somalia

Handout / Reuters

War-torn Somalia has one of the world’s highly maternal mortality rates (1,200 women die in childbirth per 100,000 live births.) In 2012, there were a reported 1,200 rapes of women in internally displaced camps.

Pictured here a Somali woman sits with her son in a tented outpatient clinic.

10. Djibouti

Adam Pretty / Getty Images

There are no laws in Djibouti forbidding sexual harassment. An estimated 93% of women are victims of female genital mutilation.

Pictured here Zourah Ali of Djibouti competes at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

11. Bahrain

Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters

30% of Bahraini women suffer from domestic abuse. A woman’s testimony is worth half a man’s before Bahrain’s Islamic courts.

Pictured here a woman watches the funeral procession for a Bahraini killed by police during anti-government protests. The graffiti references allegations that Bahraini police have tortured women arrested for opposing the regime.

12. Mauritania

Susana Vera / Reuters

Only a reported 9% of Mauritanian women use contraception. 69% of females are victims of female genital mutilation; on average, females undergo FGM when they are 1 month old.

Pictured here a young woman drinks tea as she waits for a bag of rice and a bottle of cooking oil outside a food distribution center.

13. United Arab Emirates

Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters

In the UAE, women who have children outside of marriage risk being arrested, imprisoned, and deported. It is illegal for an Emirati woman to marry a non-Muslim (though Emirati men can).

Pictured here a woman looks at an artwork titled “Blind New World” at a Dubai auction.

14. Libya

Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

In April, the Ministry of Social affairs suspended marriage licenses for Libyan women marrying foreign men. Up to 99% of women who file domestic abuse cases reportedly eventually withdraw their complaints.

Pictured here a woman, decked out in the Libyan flag, casts her ballot during the 2012 National Assembly election at a polling station in Tripoli.

15. Morocco

Stringer / Reuters

The Moroccan penal code forbids harboring women who leave their husbands. 44% of females aged 15-49 are illiterate. 10% of marriages involve a female under the age of 18.

Pictured here a woman participates in a rally commemorating Labour Day.

16. Algeria

Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

Algerian law does not recognize spousal rape. On October 14, 2012 Algeria issued its first sexual assault conviction ever.

Pictured here a woman complains about living conditions at her home in a shantytown near the capital, Algiers.

17. Tunisia

Louafi Larbi / Reuters

On December 12, 2012, Tunisia opened the first government-run domestic abuse shelter and emergency hotline. Tunisian women are allowed 30 days for maternity leave, at 67% of their full wage.

Pictured here a Tunisian woman walks past supporters for an Islamist party.

18. Qatar

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Qatari women still need their husbands’ permission to obtain a driving license. Each year, about 100 expat women are jailed for giving birth outside of wedlock.

Pictured here are a woman and three children along the Persian Gulf waterfront in Doha.

19. Jordan

Majed Jaber / Reuters

A Jordanian woman cannot transfer her citizenship to a non-Jordanian spouse or children. Women own only 17% of property in the Hashemite Kingdom.

Pictured here a woman shouts slogans during a demonstration against military strikes on the Syrian government after Friday prayers in the capital city, Amman.

20. Kuwait

Stephanie Mcgehee / Reuters

Kuwait has no specific laws forbidding sexual violence; marital rape is neither recognized nor punished. The minimum age for females to marry is 15, while for males it is 17.

Pictured here is former health minister Massouma al-Mubarak, who became the first Kuwaiti woman minister in 2005.

21. Oman

Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Women hold 1.2% of the seats in Oman’s parliament. By law they can inherit 50% of what men can. A man can divorce his wife for any reason, while a woman only has 8 legal grounds for obtaining a divorce.

Pictured here are a woman and her daughter in traditional Omani dress.

22. Comoros

Comoros provides women the most political, economic, and reproductive rights of the states surveyed. For example, half of all inmates in jails are being held for sexual assault crimes, while women are usually awarded possession of land and homes in the case of divorce or separation.

Pictured here is a fact-sheet released by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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