23 Fast Facts about Women’s Oppression Worldwide

human rights issuesIf you haven’t yet read Half the Sky, then it needs to be the next book on your summer reading list. The oppression of women and girls has moved our chapter so much that we are planning a fundraiser for mid-fall (more details to come on this). As Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue in the book, the oppression of women and girls is the moral crisis of the 21st century. Even though we’ve come far here in the United States, we have so much more to go both here and abroad. Here are 23 fast facts about women’s oppression worldwide, particularly regarding violence against women and girls, sex trafficking and exploitation, and education.

Violence Against Women and Girls

  1. One in five women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
  2. Women are more likely to be beaten, raped, or killed by a current or former partner than by any other person, with most studies estimating that 20 to 50 percent of women experience partner violence at some point in their lives.
  3. In the United States, a woman is abused, usually by her husband or partner, every 15 seconds and is raped every 90 seconds.
  4. One hundred and two countries have no specific legal provisions against domestic violence, and in at least fifty-three countries, marital rape is not a prosecutable offense.
  5. Between five hundred thousand and 2 million people-the majority of them women and children-are trafficked annually into situations including prostitution, forced labor, slavery, or servitude. Only 93 countries have some legislative provision prohibiting trafficking in human beings.
  6. The UN estimates that approximately five thousand women are murdered each year as a result of honor killings, but many women’s groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia suspect the number is at least four times higher.

Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women and Girls

  1. There are approximately 27 million slaves alive today-more than at any point in history and 56 percent are women.
  2. The average price of a trafficked human is at a historic low of $90, which means that it is sometimes more “cost-effective” for traffickers to allow their victims to die than to provide them with adequate conditions and health care.
  3. Slavery is an extremely profitable, international industry. It is estimated that trafficking in the United States yields $9 billion every year, and around the world, trafficking in women for commercial sex purposes nets $6 billion per year.
  4. Roughly 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each
    year. California is a major trafficking entry point, with 43 percent of California trafficking incidents occurring in the San Francisco Bay Area alone.
  5. In the United States 70 percent of all prostitution is handled by pimps, who keep most of the money, and it is estimated that 70 percent of prostitutes experience multiple rapes each year-some as frequently as once a week.
  6. The typical age of entry into prostitution is 13 to 14 and almost 33 percent of the women got started in prostitution through family members or friends.
  7. Some estimates claim there are at least 300,000 children in prostitution, while others
    believe the numbers may be as high as 500,000 to 1.2 million.
  8. Worldwide, an estimated 51 million girls have been married before the age of consent. In many parts of the world, parents encourage the marriage of their underage daughters in exchange for property and livestock or to benefit their social status.
  9. The sexual violation and torture of civilian women and girls during periods of armed
    conflict has been referred to as “one of history’s great silences” and has generally been ignored despite the millions who have been injured and killed by the brutal practice. Trafficking of women and girls was reported in 85 percent of the world’s conflict zones.


  1. Of the 781 million illiterate adults in the developing world, two-thirds are women, and nearly one out of every five girls who enrolls in primary school does not complete her primary education.
  2. Nearly three-quarters of girls out of school are from excluded groups such as ethnic minorities, isolated clans, and very poor households, even though these groups represent only 20 percent of the world’s population.
  3. Educated women have greater control over their financial resources and are more likely than men to invest their resources in their families’ health, education, and nutrition.
  4. No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40 percent of its adults able to read and write. An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent and an extra year of secondary school increases earnings by 15 to 25 percent.
  5. Educating women increases productivity in agrarian communities. According to a 2005 report by the United Nations (UN), if female farmers in Kenya were provided with the same education and resources as male farmers, crop yields could rise by 22 percent.
  6. One year of female schooling reduces fertility by 10 percent and a child born to a woman who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past age 5. Women with formal education are much more likely to use reliable family planning methods, delay marriage and childbearing, and have fewer and healthier babies.
  7. Education fosters democracy and women’s political participation. A study in Bangladesh found that educated women are three times more likely to take part in political meetings than those without schooling.
  8. Girls’ education ranks among the most powerful tools for reducing vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. A study in Zambia found that AIDS spreads twice as fast among uneducated girls than girls who have access to education. Young rural Ugandans with secondary education are three times less likely to contract HIV.

Related Links:

Amnesty International Failed in the Maternal Health Crisis

3 Recent Human Rights Issues in Africa

Sex Trafficking in the United States [Slideshow]

11 thoughts on “23 Fast Facts about Women’s Oppression Worldwide

  1. There was an excellent documentary shown on CNN last night called “Girl Rising” which addressed these issues. I highly recommend it.

  2. Pingback: 22 MORE Fast Facts about Women’s Oppression Worldwide | Amnesty International, St. Louis Blog

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