Women Face Twice as Many Types of Persecution as Men

Double Persecution for Being Female and Christian Leaves Many Women More Vulnerable

According to Open Doors researchers on the ground in some of the world's most dangerous countries for Christians, Christian women around the world are facing harsh and targeted persecution based on their gender. The latest report indicates that Christian women experience a "double persecution" in 33 countries—persecution for being a Christian and persecution for being a woman.

Far from being gender-blind, persecution exploits all available vulnerabilities women have including lack of education, lack of healthcare, forced divorce, travel bans, trafficking, widowhood, incarceration in a psychiatric unit, forced abortions or contraception, being denied access to work and lack of choice to marry a person of similar faith. The pressures faced by Christian women are twice as numerous as those experienced by Christian men. Whatever form it takes, one of the goals of all gender-specific persecution found in the report is to destroy the Christian community.

For instance, the sexual assault of women in Nigeria by Boko Haram, and in Iraq by Islamic State, is typically acknowledged as rape, but not framed in the public dialogue as a tool of religious persecution. While those assaults have not been confined to Christian populations, a study of the demographics of victims and of their testimonies of the words used by attackers leaves no doubt that at least one primary objective of Boko Haram and the Islamic State is to eradicate the Christian population by any means.

Christian men and women experience persecution in very different ways. In fact, no overlap exists between the three most prevalent ways Christian men and women experience pressure to abandon their faith. Christian men are most often subject to pressures related to work, military/militia conscription and nonsexual physical violence, whereas Christian women are specifically and most frequently targeted through forced marriage, rape and other forms of sexual violence. Notably, women face more physical violence than men in terms of the quantity and variety of forms violence can take.

"Women face an incredible challenge of living as second-class citizens in many countries. To further complicate and degrade their value, Christian women specifically face an even greater challenge. They are targeted specifically for their faith and often are helpless to demand justice," said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. "As the United States continues to focus on improving the lives of American women, let us not forget those who cannot even have a man arrested for violence against them."

Persecution at a Glance

Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While persecution of Christians takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death, as a result of their faith.

Media Resources

  • Interviews with David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA
  • Interviews with persecuted female Christians from India and South Asia
  • Full report on gender persecution


Nov. 1, 2016, to Oct. 31, 2017, researchers measured the degree of freedom a Christian woman has to live out her faith in five spheres of life—private, family, community, national and church, plus a sixth category measuring the degree of violence. View more information on the methodology of this report here.

About Open Doors USA

For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and equips the Western church to advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.