7 Countries Where International Women's Day Is Most Needed, Because Gender Equality Is A Global Issue

Tuesday is International Women's Day, and this year's important theme is "joining the movement" aka #PledgeForParity. The annual celebration of women's progress across the globe first started in 1908 as an initiative to advocate for women's social, economic, and political power. International Women's Day is centered around gender equality and the rights of women on an international scale, and it is still just as relevant in 2016 as it was in its first year. Due to the patriarchal structure of societies across the world, there are plenty of countries in need of gender equality and the end of gender-based violence.

From the pay gap to sexual assault to domestic violence, there are many issues facing women around the world. Gender equality is important both at an institutional level and in personal relations. And the push for gender equality must be inclusive of all women of various races, religions, cultures, classes, citizenships, physical abilities, sexualities, and gender identities — and especially of those at the intersections of multiple identities. To observe 2016's International Women's Day on March 8, here are seven countries with issues facing women that you may not have known about, and which need to show up for women this year.

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Brazil

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In May 2015, the Zika virus was confirmed in Brazil. Primarily transmitted by mosquitoes, as it has spread throughout the country, the virus has reportedly been connected to microcephaly — a neurological disorder that causes developmental issues and sometimes death — in newborn babies. Health officials in Brazil have since warned women to not get pregnant for at least the next two years if they may have been exposed to the virus, but abortion laws in the country do not allow women with the virus to terminate their pregnancies. There have been over 1.5 million Zika cases in Brazil to date, and it is especially affecting the country's poor. Because access to reproductive healthcare is central to any pledge for parity, the organization Women on Web has been working to ship the abortion pill to women in the region who have contracted Zika.

Canada

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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police published a 2014 study which found almost 1,200 incidents of missing and murdered aboriginal women between 1980 and 2012. Specifically, the report found 164 missing women and 1,017 homicide victims. The country announced that it was launching an investigation into these cases in February. Although its aboriginal population makes up only four percent of Canada's women, aboriginal women are the victims in one out of every four female homicides. In an AJ+ video, one woman said:

I really hope that the inquiry ... will look at the colonial and systemic roots — the root issues of the murdered and missing indigenous women's issue — but also it will look at how police are complicit in the high rates of unsolved cases across this country.

The rights and lives of indigenous women everywhere are important, and these cases are a human rights issue that is central to gender equality.

Turkey

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Physical violence against women has proven a serious issue in Turkey, which ranks 77 out of 138 on the United Nations' gender equality index. Between 2010 and 2015, Turkey reported over 1,100 female homicide victims. In 608 of the cases, the perpetrator was a husband or ex-husband, and in 161 cases, the perpetrator was a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. At least 234 of the murders were a direct result of a separation or divorce.

As Turkish women celebrated International Women's Day over the weekend, police showed up and fired rubber bullets into the crowd. A woman named Guris Ozen who attended the movement told Reuters:

You see the power of women. We are here despite every obstacle and we will continue to fight for our cause.

Germany

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On New Year's Eve, 120 women reported sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany. After some of the women who came forward identified the attackers as appearing Arab or North African, people responded violently toward refugees from Muslim countries. While these attacks were horrible, sexual violence and harassment of women are not new in the country, as one in three women in Germany experience physical or sexual assault. Sexual violence is a pervasive problem across the world, and must be treated as such.

India

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A study published by the International Center for Research on Women conducted interviews with 9,205 men and 3,158 women in India. Men stated that they were "convinced that masculinity is about acting tough, freely exercising his privilege to lay down the rules in personal relationships and, above all, controlling women." The number of reported rapes in the country jumped from 24,923 in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013. According to the National Crime Records Bureau Report, violence against women in India also went up over a five-year period, making up 11.2 percent of reported crimes in 2013.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

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A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that every hour, about 48 women are raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United Nations reported that from January to September 2014, there were 11,769 cases of sexual violence across five eastern provinces. The issue of sexual and gender-based violence in Congo has been especially prominent over the last two decades, since war broke out in 1996. Therese Mema Mapenzi, a sexual violence project coordinator who has worked on tracking sexual violence in the country for eight years, told Al Jazeera:

We need to reconstruct the whole system in order to combat sexual violence. This is not just done with a paintbrush.

United States

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Women face the violence of patriarchal structures in all corners of the world, and the U.S. is no exception. In fact, according to the Center for American Progress, in 2014, American women working full-time jobs earned 78 percent of what men did — and black women made 64 percent of what men did, while Latina women made 54 percent.

But that's not all. There are 293,066 victims of sexual violence in the U.S. every year — one every 107 seconds. According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, 18.8 percent of black women report rape at some time in their lives, and for every black woman who reports sexual assault, 15 will not. Further, according to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 72 percent of anti-LGBTQ homicide victims are transgender women.

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This International Women's Day, let's stand by all women in our pledges for parity.

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