London was ranked the best place for women to live.
In a recent survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the organization asked experts in a range of women’s issues in 19 different megacities about the amount of protection and support women receive in those cities. The megacities were categorized as those with a population of over 10 million people and the questions on the survey included protection from sexual violence and harmful cultural practices, and access to good healthcare, finance, and education. The results were harrowing and amounted to the fact that Cairo is the worst for sexual violence and harassment while London was the least dangerous in general.
Cairo is the capital and largest city of Egypt, which is the most populated country in the Arab world, and is the worst at protecting and supporting its female citizens.
“We’re still operating under a conservative country and it’s hard to take any radical progressive steps in the area of women and women’s laws,” said Omaima Abou-Bakr, co-founder of the Cairo-based campaign group Women and Memory Forum.
According to the local experts, cultural practices that date back centuries are still practiced in the country at large, despite rigorous campaigning to stop the violence. The practices include female genital mutilation (FGM), of which Egypt has one of the highest rates in the world, and child marriages. Though both of these practices were recently banned, 9 in 10 girls and women are still subjected to FGM and 17% of girls are married before they turn 18. Experts blame citizen unrest and government discontent, which came to a head in the Arab Spring, at stifling the progression of women’s rights because it has been pushed to the back burner.
From the survey results, Cairo was followed by Karachi in Pakistan, Kinshasa in Democratic Republic of the Congo, then the Indian capital New Delhi as being the worst and most dangerous for women. However, based on surveys where female citizens were personally asked about their risk of being the victim of sexual violence, Delhi and Sao Paulo were branded the most dangerous.
The fatal and horrific gang rape of a Delhi woman on a bus in 2012 led to massive protests and outrage, forcing the government to tighten its laws against sexual violence and its perpetrators, but citizens say this has done little to stop sexual assault from occurring. In India, approximately four rapes occur every hour, which includes only those that are reported.
“These rapists act because they know they won’t get caught. So strengthening the police and courts to effectively investigate, prosecute, convict and punish is key,” said lawyer Rishi Kant from Shakti Vahini, a charity that supports rape victims.
As far as access to healthcare, including control over reproductive health, Lima (in Peru) was revealed as the worst city at providing this basic right to women. Abortion is illegal in Peru, except to save the mother’s life, and the rate of teenage pregnancy is shockingly high.
On the other end of the spectrum, London was named the best city for women, thanks to their universal national healthcare and access to economic opportunities. Tokyo was named as the safest city in terms of sexual violence and harassment, though some campaigners said this may be because sexual crimes remain hidden.
Despite being a female-friendly city, Londoners say that the city still has a long way to go to achieve equality and even reach the point where industries are female-dominated instead.
“The progress we’re making as a city is not happening fast enough,” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan. “We must redouble our efforts to remove any barriers to women’s success and to unlock their full potential.”
The survey involved 380 people and it was conducted primarily online and via phone between the months of June and July of this year. In each megacity, about 20 experts (with a minimum of 15) per city were questioned and the response rate was 93 percent.