“The best predictor of a state’s stability and security is the level of violence against women in society,” said Texas A&M University’s Valerie Hudson
in this interview with ECSP. That link is “based on rigorous empirical analysis,” she said. “There’s something to it. It’s not just political correctness.”
Hudson is the co-author of Sex and World Peace, which she launched with Chad Emmett (also interviewed) at the Wilson Center last month. The book is the product of 10 years of research by Hudson, Emmett, and co-authors Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, and Mary Caprioli. In the world of gender studies, “one of the things that we quickly discovered was that anecdotes abound, but anecdotes do not add up to data,” Hudson said.
To combat that discrepancy the authors created the WomanStats Project, a database of more than 324 variables from 175 countries. Using indicators such as the physical security of women, trafficking in women, sex ratio and son preference, equity in family law, polygyny, female genital cutting, and age of marriage, the authors were able to assess women’s well-being on both a micro-scale and between nations.
Comparing this data to the Global Peace Index, the authors found that contrary to conventional wisdom, “the best predictor of a nation’s stability and security is not their level of democracy, it’s not their level of wealth, it’s not what ‘Huntington civilization’ they belong to,” said Hudson. It’s violence against women.
“We think that there is a link between what’s happening at the micro level with women in the country and what kind of behavior you’re seeing from the state on the world stage.” Given that link, she added, improving the status of women could do more to enhance a state’s security than, “say, exporting democracy or exporting free market capitalism.”
The Obama administration seems to recognize this link. “What’s exciting is that the United States is developing a national action plan to implement this kind of mainstreaming of women into national security, diplomacy, and foreign policy contexts,” Hudson said, adding that “we feel that we could provide the information that would help make this a grounded and effective action plan.”
However, bottom-up initiatives will also play an important role in improving women’s equality and security, said Emmett. As a geographer and Middle East specialist, he pointed out that there are a lot citizen initiatives “coming out of the Islamic world where Muslim women themselves are implementing change, are taking action, are doing things.”
Hudson sees the WomanStats Project as a tool that women around the world can use in their efforts towards equality. “Our feeling is that we want to lower the barriers for people from all walks of life to begin to see and access information on the situation of women…and we’re able to provide that.”
Video Credit: Sean Peoples/Wilson Center.