Cairo tops the global list of most dangerous megacities for women, with Karachi in Pakistan, Kinshasa in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and New Delhi in India following, a poll from the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. London, Tokyo and Paris are ranked as the most women-friendly.
The survey asked experts in women’s issues which of the world’s megacities (i.e. cities housing over 10 million people) are safest for women, and which have work to do in the areas of sexual violence and harassment and access to healthcare, finance and education.
In Cairo, centuries-old traditions have kept discrimination alive, women’s rights campaigners told the foundation.
“Everything about the city is difficult for women. We see women struggling in all aspects. Even a simple walk on the street, and they are subjected to harassment, whether verbal or even physical,” Egyptian journalist and women’s rights campaigner Shahira Amin said.
Cairo’s ranking is a cumulative assessment of sexual violence, cultural practices, economic opportunities and access to healthcare, including “control over reproductive health and maternal mortality,” according to the poll. When considering sexual violence alone, researchers ranked Delhi and Sao Paulo as more dangerous. Authorities recorded four rapes every hour in India in 2015 and a poll from 2017 found that one in every three Brazilian women over the age of 16 had “suffered physical, verbal or psychological violence in the previous year,” the foundation reports.
As Next City covered in 2015, Brazil is one of the world’s highest-ranking countries for reported homicides against women as well, with race playing into its statistics. From 2001 to 2011, more than 60 percent of women murdered in Brazil were black.
“More and more, Brazilian women are connecting these experiences with the ubiquitous street harassment they are expected to live with in the country,” Catherine Osborn wrote at the time.
The most dangerous cities for women (Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Researchers dubbed Tokyo the safest city when considering sexual violence and harassment. London was named the best city for women overall due to the city’s free and universal National Health Service and economic opportunities.
As the poll points out, the world is urbanizing, with more megacities on the horizon, so city-level policy on the issue of women’s safety is increasingly important. As Next City has covered, this can mean licensing women-only transportation options, rethinking architecture to evade violence and rethinking public space with women in mind (and at the urban planning helm).
In 2016, the UN’s Habitat III conference met to adopt a New Urban Agenda, which hammed out some impressive goals for women’s equality — although the document was criticized for lacking commitments for implementation. It included land tenure rights, informal economic opportunities and goals for safety and security, with a vision for cities “without fear of violence and intimidation” for women, girls, children and youth, as Caroline Moser laid out in an op-ed for Next City.
The full results of the poll can be viewed here.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.