Egypt 'worst for women' out of 22 countries in Arab world

Women carry clothes bought at al-Ataba, a popular market in downtown Cairo November 11, 2013 The survey looked at women's rights in the wake of the Arab uprisings

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Egypt is now the worst country for women's rights in the Arab world, according to a poll of gender experts.

The study found sexual harassment, high rates of female genital mutilation and a growth in conservative Islamist groups contributed to the low ranking.

The Comoros islands came top in the survey, which was conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The poll surveyed more than 330 gender experts in 21 Arab League states as well as Syria.

It is the foundation's third annual study focusing on women's rights since the Arab Uprisings in 2011.

'Everyday harassment'

Iraq ranked second-worst after Egypt, followed by Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

The Comoros, where women hold 20% of ministerial positions, is followed at the top of the rankings by Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar.

The poll asked experts to assess factors such as violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family and women's role in politics and the economy.

Discriminatory laws and a spike in trafficking contributed to Egypt's place at the bottom of the ranking of 22 Arab states, the survey said.

"There are whole villages on the outskirts of Cairo and elsewhere where the bulk of economic activity is based on trafficking in women and forced marriages," said Zahra Radwan of US-based rights group Global Fund for Women.

However, sexual harassment was cited as the main factor.

A UN report in April said 99.3% of women and girls in Egypt had been subjected to sexual harassment.

"The social acceptability of everyday sexual harassment affects every woman in Egypt regardless of age, professional or socio-economic background, marriage status, dress or behaviour," said Noora Flinkman of Egyptian campaign group HarassMap.

Meanwhile, the survey said Iraq was now more dangerous for women than under Saddam Hussein, with women disproportionately affected by the violence of the past decade.

Saudi Arabia ranked poorly on women's involvement in politics, workplace discrimination, freedom of movement and property rights.

But the conservative country scored better than many other Arab states when it came to access to education and healthcare, reproductive rights and gender violence.

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