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Columns and Articles by Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman

October 15, 2011

What are the Best and Worst Countries for Women? (Part 2)

Last week, I addressed a major issue for most of the world’s women: marriage. This time, there are other issues equally important: women getting a fair justice system, access to health services, education, economics, and political participation. Newsweek (September 26, ) did an enormous service by providing in-depth articles (“The Global Women’s Progress Report”) and some very revealing charts show the best places to be a woman and the worst. There was also a searing article on family-forced marriages, which we formerly thought was a Third-World problem, but has now emerged as a legal and cultural issue in Europe and the United States. It has become our problem now.

• Scorecard for Women. First: the top 10 best places for women (scores from 100 to 87.7 points: Iceland, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Norway, United States, Australia, and the Netherlands. No great surprises there. The next ten are: New Zealand, France, Luxembourg, Portugal, Macedonia, Moldova, Philippines, Belgium, United Kingdom (barely), and Romania.

The worst places (scores from zero to 26) are: Chad, Afghanistan, Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Solomon Islands, Niger, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Sudan. With the exception of Solomon Islands and maybe Congo, these are all Islamic states. The next ten are Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Saudi Arabia, and Mauritania. With the exception of Muslim Saudi Arabia, all the rest are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The impediments for women are patriarchal tribal systems or patriarchal religion; illiteracy; poverty (perhaps a product of the first two); and a hatred of women that is thousands of years old. Why else would men consider enforcing female genital mutilation in Africa?

• Enforced Marriages. A number of writers, including myself, have raised the issue of the difficulty of integrating immigrants from the dark ages into modern Western societies. Europe and America have no difficulty with elite immigrants who arrived educated and eager to integrate, or immigrants, even penniless, who had a cultural respect for Western learning. However, it is very irritating to hear a British Ambassador interviewed by Charlie Rose say that Europe’s growing hostility to Muslim immigrants is stupid. “They are a breath of fresh air,” he announced, without telling us what that fresh air is.

The Newsweek article, “Marry---Or Else” puts that one to rest. “Forced weddings and ‘Honor’ killings aren’t just a developing-world issue. New research shows how it happens in England and the United States” they write, and the examples are horrific. In 2008 alone, the British learned that 2,500 cases of forced marriage were going on without government attention. Very young girls were taken to their family’s Muslim homelands on “vacation” only to find themselves forced to marry a village oaf (and first cousin) who generally beat them into submission (or murder them if they didn’t submit).

It took the British years to start inquiring why their Pakistani-British schoolgirls were disappearing. In 2008, they first recognized that 2,500 girls went missing. In 2011, they expect that number to double. This time, however, they are prosecuting these families—and pulling their passports so that they cannot kidnap their daughters. The British (and French, Danes, Dutch, Swedes, and Germans) are now dealing with a problem that should have been prevented years ago. Daughters who defy their parents by wanting to continue in school or choosing their own husbands are murdered with monotonous regularity, after a family council passes judgment.

The United States, which has more success integrating Muslim immigrants, is not problem free either. We formerly dealt with a rash of African migrants sending daughters to Africa to be genitally mutilated, a problem faced by France too, which has been resolved with examination of the girls before and after such a trip.

We are alarmed by the increasing rise of radicalized Muslim youth, which is being addressed. But under the radar was a recent poll by the Urban Institute Justice Policy that there is widespread knowledge of forced marriage in America.

Some cultures are decidedly bad for women. It is not “Islamophobia” to say so—and to legally compel immigrants to give up bad habits.

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Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of How Do You Know That? You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net