Violence plagues countries near, far

You might have heard that there has been a recent introduction of a bill in Pakistan that would allow men to “lightly beat” their wives. It got me to thinking that countries with high rates of domestic violence seem to be worse off in other ways.

I started doing some searches, and I found that the countries with the highest levels of violence against women are also those that are the least developed. So the more developed a country becomes, the rate of domestic violence drops (or, as the rate of violence drops, a country is able to become developed, depending on how you wish to look at it).

I found a list of the 10 worst countries for women (wonderslist.com/10-worst-countries-for-women). In ascending order, they are: Iraq, Pakistan, India, Somalia, Mali, Guatemala, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Chad.

I then checked these countries against the Human Development Index. This is a report that includes statistics of life expectancy, education and income. A country has a higher HDI when these factors are higher, and it is used to define countries as developed, developing or undeveloped.

In the lowest category of human development were Sudan, Chad, Mali, Congo, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the next lowest category were Iraq, Guatemala and India. Data was not available for Somalia. In looking at this, it’s clear that there is a correlation between violence against women and low levels of domestic development.

Before we get all smug and say that this sort of violence is something that occurs with those people over there, I need to share another statistic. The HDI has been referred to as an index of potential human development, but there is a variation on this report that accounts for inequality, which is a more accurate measure of actual human development.

And here is where it gets interesting. The U.S. doesn’t come out on top. In the most recent report (2015), we are ranked 27th, tied with Poland. In the previous report (2013), we were 16th. I couldn’t find any specific statistics comparing domestic violence rates between years for the U.S., so I can’t make the assertion that it increased as our human development rating fell.

But I still think it is worrisome that we are not in the top echelon of domestic progress. As far as income equality among citizens, we’re in the middle for developed countries. A higher rating on the development scale means more medical care, higher standard of living, less inequality, less gender violence, less poverty and less crime.

So which comes first? Is violence born out of a low standard of living, whereby people take their frustrations out on those who are weaker physically or have less power? Or is it because of economics that women in these countries have less power to begin with?

Or could it be that once attitudes change toward women, and they are respected and not treated with violence, that they are able to gain economic and social power? And perhaps this shift in attitude is what is responsible to enable a country to become more developed?

We need to be aware of this correlation so that we do not allow our country to slip further down the development scale and be aware that one aspect of increasing our standard of living is eliminating domestic violence — and all other forms of violence. For a society to be truly developed means that it is safe for all of its citizens.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website, stephanie haines.com.