For the past two weeks, the world has watched in terror as members of the religious extremist Taliban movement seized power in Afghanistan. Between the desperation of those who had collaborated with the U.S. to leave and the alarm of international women’s rights organizations, it seemed that the worst-case dystopian scenario was becoming a reality.
However, little is known exactly about the origin of the Taliban’s erratic rationale for arguing the oppression of women, and new research has found a direct link between these social dynamics and poverty.
Oppressing women is not only bad for women; it also hurts men. It makes societies poorer and less stable, argue Valerie Hudson of Texas A&M University and Donna Lee Bowen and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen of Brigham Young University.
In “The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide,” Hudson, Bowen, and Nielsen rank 176 countries on a scale of 0 to 16 according to what they call the “patrilineal/fraternal syndrome.” This is a combination of aspects such as unequal treatment of women in family law and property rights, early marriage of girls, patrilineal marriage, polygamy, bride price, son preference, violence against women, and societal attitudes about it, The Economist explained.
The study found that wealthy democracies, such as Australia, Sweden, and Switzerland, score the best possible, while countries such as Iraq, Nigeria, Yemen, and Afghanistan score dismally.
Similarly, economically rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar also have considerable instability ratings.
In total, the authors estimate that 120 countries remain to some extent subject to this syndrome.
Hudson and her co-authors tested the relationship between the patrilineal syndrome and violent political instability. They ran several regressions on their 176 countries, controlling for other things that could foster conflicts, such as ethnic and religious strife, colonial history, and broad cultural categories such as Muslim, Western, and Hindu.
The authors also found evidence that patriarchy and poverty go hand in hand. The syndrome explained four-fifths of the variation in food security and four-fifths of the variation in scores on the UN Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, health, and education.
“It seems as if the surest way to curse one’s nation is to subordinate its women,” they conclude.