04/30/2012 01:54 EDT | Updated 05/01/2012 07:58 EDT

Women's Rights Around The World: WomanStats Project Shows Huge Discrepancies (PHOTOS)

It's no surprise a woman's quality of life varies greatly around the world -- but what many of us don't realize is just how dire circumstances continue to be in most of the countries around the globe.

Though it was recently reported women now receive the majority of post-secondary degrees across all levels in the US, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, in other respects there are serious concerns. Recent stories about gender preferences for babies in Canada brought into the spotlight surprising attitudes on this controversial topic, as it's been shown to correlate with sex-selective abortions and a lower quality of care for girls.

Valerine M. Hudson, a professor of political science at Texas A&M University, developed the WomanStats Project in an attempt to gather as much information as possible about women around the world, as well as "[assess] the linkage between the security of women on the one hand, and the security, stability, and behavior of nation-states on the other."

She and her team have now teamed up with Foreign Policy to create maps of some of that data, showing, for example, the high rate of discrepancy in education in Afghanistan, or the almost complete lack of women in government in China.

Countries in Africa and the Middle East are shown to be particularly challenging places for women, for both political and cultural reasons. While initiatives have been put into place to help these areas empower the female population, WomanStats Project's data shows there is still quite a way to go.

SEE: Maps of the world showing the various problems affecting women. Text continues below:

Photo gallery Women Around The World See Gallery

Child Marriage

Of note: The countries in which underage marriage is common and encouraged include India, Turkey, and Panama, among many others. Marriage under the age of 18 has been correlated with higher rates of dying young, health problems, living in poverty and illiteracy.

Female Genital Cutting

Of note: While the majority of countries scarcely engage in this practice, the countries where more than half of the women have their genitals cut include Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Egypt.

Son Preference And Sex Ratios

Of note: Canada, Colombia and Chile, along with other countries, have notably higher rates of abnormal sex ratios, which has been shown to correlate with sex-selective abortions and discrimination in care for girls.

Women's Physical Security

Of note: The countries in which women lack physical security -- which is defined as fewer laws against domestic violence, rape, and marital rape, their enforcement, the taboos or norms about reporting the crimes and existence of 'honour killings' -- include Cambodia, Morocco and Peru, among many others in Africa and the Middle East.

Trafficking Of Females

Of note: The countries in which trafficking is not illegal and commonly practiced include Myanmar, Venezuela and North Korea. Studies have found that 70 per cent of trafficked women end up in the sex trade.

Maternal Mortality

Of note: Maternal mortality rate is linked with the general health of a society, as a lower rate positively affects families and economy. The countries that have more than 300 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births include almost all of central Africa, Pakistan and Bolivia.

Discrepancy In Education

Of note: The countries in which there is a greater than 20 per cent difference between male and female education, as well 'significant' legal and cultural restrictions to it, include Afghanistan, Somalia and Haiti.

Educating women has been shown to help improve health, poverty and create equality between men and women.

Government Participation

Of note: The countries in which 0 to 10 per cent of parliament is composed of women include China, Japan and Brazil (despite their female president). A 2010 study by Deloitte emphasized the importance of women in government in order to foster equality. They found that a critical mass of one-third of women in government can help societies move beyond 'gender-centric issues.'

Discrepant Government Behaviour

Of note: The countries in which there is virtually no enforcement of laws concerning the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women include Iran, Papua New Guinea, and Eritrea, despite the latter two countries' accession to the convention in 1995.