Saudi Arabia: Worse Country for a Woman?



Here is an opportunity for American Bedu readers to participate in a survey on which country is the worse country in which to be a woman.

I plan to participate in the survey but may surprise you with my point of view.  I do not believe Saudi Arabia is the worse country in which to be a woman.  Instead I think of the countries which continue to be rife with female trafficking or female genital mutilation.  Those countries DO NOT include Saudi Arabia.

Here is the email I received which provides you with details and contact information if you’d like to participate in the survey:

Dear Carol,

TrustLaw Women, a women’s rights news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation, is conducting its annual global poll of experts, which this year is looking at the best and worst countries in the G20 to be a woman. I was wondering whether you would like to add your voice to the survey. We have had a lot of responses so far but we are missing input from those with knowledge of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps you would also be able to publicise the survey to others in the region – bloggers, journalists, women’s rights activists, campaigners, politicians etc – who have knowledge of women’s rights.

Sharing your expertise via this poll will help highlight important issues affecting women – including health, gender violence and discrimination – ahead of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, June 18-19. Results will be launched in June on TrustLaw and via the Reuters newswire.

Please click here to access the survey. We’d be grateful if you could complete the eight questions, or those questions you feel qualified to answer, as soon as possible and by April 30th.

Last year’s poll identified the world’s most dangerous countries to be a woman, sparking massive media coverage and debate.

See a video on the impact of the poll here, and see how it changed life on the ground here.

We thank you in advance for your time and please let me know if you have any queries.

Best wishes, Katherine


20 Responses

  1. WORST country for the women in this world , but there is no superlative for the worst , for MEN in hereafter , This will sound
    sensible only to the believers of course.

  2. Worse Country for a Woman? Well, it depends on which survey you believe in. I have seen more than a half dozen surveys on this and each one comes out with a different list. Depends on how questions are phrased and depending on who is sponsoring/financing it :)-

    One of the least biased surveys that I have seen is conducted annually by the World Economic Forum (Global Gender Gap Report). It ranks 135 countries comprising 93% of the world’s population, by measures of gender equality.

    According to this survey, Nordic nations consistently rank at the top of the list: Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark have been featured in the top-10 every year since 2006. All Nordic countries reached near 100% literacy for both sexes, feature near parity in all levels of education and return that investment in the workforce. The nations each have generous paid maternity and paternity leave policies. In Sweden, women are offered 480 days of maternity leave.

    On the other hand, at the bottom of the list, the worst countries for gender quality are Saudi Arabia (No. 131), Mali (No. 132), Pakistan (No. 133), Chad (No. 134) and Yemen (No. 135). These low-scorers have been featured at or near the bottom since the list began in 2006. They are not investing in their women and there are major barriers to be able to enter leadership and politics.

  3. I cannot make a value judgement (why is India on the list and Saudi Arabia not). One problem for women in Saudi Arabia (as opposed to Saudi Arabian women) is that so many are expatriate workers. I doubt they would say that Saudi Arabia is a good country for women. They have few rights or privileges.

  4. I encourage readers to participate in the survey but be prepared to need some time for thinking. At least I did… It was not a cut and dried survey for me.

  5. I remember a muslim women who grew up in Sudan and was living in Saudi. She was asked which country would you rather live in and she stated, Sudan. People thought she was crazy but she based it upon the freedoms women had against those that Saudi didn’t provide. She also stated people laughed more and enjoyed themselves more than in Saudi. Saudi’s were a closed guarded people.

    I remember after reading her statement just want that means. They were a fearful people. People who are closed and so guarded are afraid of something. I think the Saudi people are scared of their neighbors, family and government. Everyday they live in fear of someone’s else’s judgement of them. Always fearful of who is watching, who will persecute them, who will come after them, etc. I would hate to live this way.

    Based on what I know of closed and guard families which include the religious these families often have something to hide or are trying to protect themselves. I assure you this is an awful way to live for anyone.

  6. carol, i took the survey. however, i did not see either afghanistan or pakistan listed …. wonder why the omission or commission???

  7. @Honest Abe: Yes; I found the country choices to be interesting and that is what made it hard for me to answer some of the questions!

  8. Carol, I think that is pretty bang on and will certainly take a look at at the survey. Abe … the survey is not about equality but treatment.
    Bigstick1 you are correct about the difference between KSA and Sudan. I have relatives in both countries and have visited both countries. I take Sudan hands down even though there is not the wealth and creature comforts of KSA. They have FREEDOM!!!

    I think Somalia is not the only country with 95% FGM. Sudan is high on that list as well as many other African countries. It is prevelent in many Islamic countries as well including Indonesia is it not?

  9. Hi Carol,
    Thanks for sharing this with us. I too took the survey and found the countries on the list very interesting.

  10. Its a mans world a Saudi. Women dont have ability to do jack. Tears went down my eyes when I had to search for a driver for my Mom because she couldnt drive..

  11. Zeyad:

    Are you originally from Saudi? If not, then why subject a woman especially your mother to such a society?

    I keep think about that movie, Escape from New York anymore when I think of Saudi and women. Here is it would be women, Escape from Saudi Arabia.

  12. The Survey only requires opinion of the G20 countries of which Saudi Arabia is a participant. Based on those countries I cannot see how you would not include Saudi Arabia as one of the three worst in their treatment of their women.

  13. On the subject of women’s rights and KSA … watched another interview with Gloria Steinham and we need to remember that women in the USA were stepped upon into the 1970’s. It if were not for the likes of Ms. Steinham and others American women would still be in the pits so it’s worth remembering that things changed in the USA not that many years ago so there is always hope that things will improve in KSA as well!!!

  14. Wendy’s perspective is useful. Always remember that the issues of domestic violence (in Canada it is a federal crimimal offense), hiring, paid maternity leave (in all Canadian provinces and territories), education, sports ..required very sustained lobbying efforts to change legislation and more importantly, attitudes of society over…several decades in Canada and the U.S. 1970’s was the turning point.

    Genital mutilation is an extreme act…which yes, that would rate a country low. Just because Saudi Arabia does not practice it, doesn’t make it ..that much better. Right now, the “problems” faced by KSA women are masked under the guise of wealth (which can easily confine alot of women to the home and not work unless they are desperate). If the requirement of male chaperone and division of paid work still exists for women, then this alone is extremely confining for KSA women to apply and grow their skills and competencies, no matter how well educated they are.

    I think how temporary women workers from other countries and their treatment in terms of rights ….says huge volumes of the lack of understanding and attention. I suspect Arabian women if they are sympathetic, still would not be personally empowered to help these women…ie. form support groups, go to court there, etc.

  15. So what do you think about this little Swedish episode?

  16. I saw that yesterday. Awful!

  17. I’m kind of curious as to who all chose to take the survey!

  18. I did take the survey. The results will be skewed though, as many have pointed out.

  19. yes; I felt disappointed with the choices of answers to the various questions.

  20. And here are the results!


    For immediate release

    Canada best G20 country to be a woman, India worst

    London, June 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – TrustLaw, a Thomson Reuters Foundation legal news service, today launches a global poll of experts on the worst and best countries for women in the G20.

    Policies that promote gender equality, safeguards against violence and exploitation and access to healthcare make Canada the best place to be a woman among the world’s biggest economies, while infanticide, child marriage and slavery make India the worst, the survey showed.

    “For too many women in too many countries, basic rights remain a luxury and even in some of the most developed economies women are often considered second rate citizens,” said Monique Villa, Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO. “This poll also shows that laws and treaties on women’s rights often don’t reflect the reality on the ground.”

    The survey ranks the 19 countries that make up the Group of 20 economies in terms of how women fare using six categories: quality of health, freedom from violence, participation in politics, workplace opportunities, access to resources and freedom of trafficking and slavery.

    It comes ahead of a summit of G20 heads of state in Mexico, on June 18-19.

    Germany, Britain, Australia and France rounded out the top five after Canada in the perceptions poll. The United States came in sixth but polarised opinion due to issues surrounding reproductive rights and affordable healthcare.

    At the other end of the scale, Saudi Arabia – where women are well educated but are banned from driving and only won the right to vote in 2011 – polled second-worst after India, followed by Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico.

    “In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour,” said Gulshun Rehman, health programme development adviser at Save the Children UK.

    “This is despite a groundbreakingly progressive Domestic Violence Act enacted in 2005 outlawing all forms of violence against women and girls.”

    TrustLaw polled 370 aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists with expertise in gender issues.

    Respondents came from 63 countries on five continents and included experts from United Nations Women, the International Rescue Committee, Plan International, Amnesty USA and Oxfam International, as well as prominent academic institutions and campaigning organisations.

    – See full poll coverage at

    – Be part of the discussion using #g20women

    – For more on women’s rights visit

    – For more on the Trust Women Conference in London (4-5 December 2012):



    Best and worst G20 countries for women

    1. Canada

    2. Germany

    3. Britain

    4. Australia

    5. France

    6. United States

    7. Japan

    8. Italy

    9. Argentina

    10. South Korea

    11. Brazil

    12. Turkey

    13. Russia

    14. China

    15. Mexico

    16. South Africa

    17. Indonesia

    18. Saudi Arabia

    19. India

    Valentine Eman
    Communications Director, Thomson Reuters Foundation
    +44 (0) 207 542 1170

    Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, will be available for interviews on this story

    Follow us: @trustlaw­_women and

    1. About TrustLaw

    TrustLaw is a hub of news and information on anti-corruption issues and women’s legal rights. At the heart of TrustLaw is an ambitious electronic platform called TrustLaw Connect, which offers lawyers a way to easily connect with social entrepreneurs, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governments in need of free legal services. TrustLaw Connect is dedicated to spread the culture and practice of free legal work around the world. It works on a free membership basis and all members are carefully vetted. The Foundation helps beneficiaries describe their legal needs and then share their requests with our international community of pro bono lawyers and finally connect beneficiaries with the lawyers with whom they choose to work. Visit Trustlaw at

    2. Thomson Reuters Foundation

    Established in 1982, Thomson Reuters Foundation is a registered charity in Britain and the United States. The charitable arm of the world’s leading provider of news and information is committed to empowering people in need around the world with trusted information and free legal assistance. The Foundation leverages the skills, values and expertise across Thomson Reuters to promote the rule of law, save lives in disasters and improve standards of journalism. Our initiatives stand for better governance, greater transparency, more effective humanitarian relief and a robust global press. The services on, the Foundation’s portal site, build on the humanitarian-information initiatives and journalism-training programmes of the Reuters Foundation, established in 1982. Visit the Foundation at

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