By Ogova Ondego
Published January 27, 2017
That women around the world are living longer is good news. That a longer lifespan is not synonymous with living better is bad news.
Yes, women’s life expectancy at birth increased by four years in the industrialized world and by nearly nine years in developing countries between 1970 and 1990 according to the United Nations.
While women in the developed world live an average six and a half years longer than men, those in the developing regions live between three and five years longer. The difference is five years in Latin America and the Caribbean, three and a half in Africa and three in Asia and the Pacific.
This, United Nations’ Human Development Report says, is despite the violence and the discrimination directed at them from the womb to the grave: forced abortion of female foetuses, sexual mutilation and female genital mutilation of girls, rape of women,marital violence against wives.
The report further says that some women are led into suicide by marital abuse, others are murdered by their partners while many girls and women are driven into prostitution each year.
UNESCO Sources magazine reports that despite industrialisation, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States of America are yet to become “woman-friendly”. For example, it is baffling how in the USA, a country that claims to champion liberty and human rights, 1in 3 women (about 34%) reports having been sexually abused. The report says that 1 in 6 American, British and Canadian women has been raped.
When it comes to domestic violence, USA—a country—once more, features prominently alongside continents like Africa and South America and the Pacific Islands. Kenya is listed among countries whose men murder their female partners. Like in Kenya, marital violence in USA is a leading cause of female suicide.
One may wonder how women – in spite of the hardships in their way – live longer than men. Could it be that they are more resilient and adapt to situations much more easily than men or do they have the proverbial nine lives of a cat?
Social scientists explain that women usually outlive men because they are not exposed to as many risks as the latter. Moreover, they argue, women’s psychological makeup enables them to give men an edge. When women cry or break down with emotion, psychologists say, the action is therapeutic as it relieves destructive tension. No doubt you have heard the saying, “Men don’t cry”. Perhaps in this lies the key to unlocking the mystery of why women live longer than men.
Yes, women outlive men. But the majority of the world’s economically-disadvantaged, non-literate and helpless refugees are women. It appears the only advantage women have over men worldwide is lifespan. Unless the world does something to improve the quality of this long life, it may be meaningless. After all, who wants to live to a ripe old age full of hardships? And UNESCO Sources does not appear to offer women much hope: “The big picture for women . . . looks bleak”, it concludes.