The WomanStats Project

The Project

The WomanStats Project began in 2001 with the aim of investigating the link between the security and behavior of states and the situation and security of the women within them. Since that time, it has grown to include thirteen principal investigators at nine universities across four countries, representing six fields of study: international relations, geography, psychology, sustainable development, statistics, and sociology. The Project has also been a source of mentoring to over 120 students, many of whom have gone on to post-graduate work.

The principal investigators are:

Goals of the Project

The Project has several interrelated goals:

The Database

The WomanStats Project is constructing what is already the most comprehensive database on the status of women cross-nationally (available at ). Containing over 170,000 data points and growing every day, it covers over 350 variables for 175 nations with populations greater than 200,000 persons. Variables include those relating to nine aspects of women’s situation and security:

  1. Women’s Physical Security
  2. Women’s Economic Security
  3. Women’s Legal Security
  4. Women’s Security in the Community
  5. Women’s Security in the Family
  6. Security for Maternity
  7. Women’s Security Through Voice
  8. Security Through Societal Investment in Women 9. Women’s Security in the State

To demonstrate the difference WomanStats data make, suppose one were interested in assessing women’s security through examining complex issues such as rape. Existing cross-national data sources would provide an indication of the prevalence of rape according to official sources, where available and reliable.

But WomanStats would give you much more. Uploaded onto a publicly available internet site, one would find the following variables concerning rape for any chosen country: official and unofficial estimates of the incidence of rape, laws concerning rape, laws concerning who can testify in a rape case, estimates of the level of enforcement of rape laws within the society and across various subnational regions, customary practice after rape (ostracism, honor killings, effect on marriageability or on divorce), laws concerning abortion in the case of rape, laws on marital rape, the use of rape as a weapon by government or subnational forces, customary practices regarding marital rape, presence of resources for women who have been raped (such as women’s shelters), legal punishments concerning rape, estimates of HIV/AIDS transmission due to rape, and even first-hand accounts by rape victims (collected by NGOs) of their treatment within the society. We even have an ordinal scale of rape and sexual assault, so that you may compare this phenomenon cross-nationally.

Clearly, the constellation of information provided in the WomanStats database paints a far more accurate and detailed picture of how rape affects the lives of women in various nations than what is currently available. WomanStats is one of the few databases concerning women that embraces qualitative information, in additional to quantitative data. The database also catalogues current legal statutes. With this comprehensive treatment, policymakers could implement more effective and achievable initiatives based on this stronger empirical foundation and also track the success of those initiatives using a chosen set of focused indicators of change. Furthermore, through our web-based interface credentialed experts may directly enter data online. And all of this data is available with an internet connection with the click of a mouse!

The Research

As the database has progressed, we have undertaken development of several indices of women’s situation and security, including indices ranking nations concerning level of violence against women in society, equity in family law for women, degree of son preference, toleration of trafficking in women, extent to which women are involved in societal decisionmaking, maternal mortality, and others. At the time of this writing, our website illustrates these rankings through mappings, available at

With these rankings and mappings, we are now able to explore how the situation of women is related to the behavior and the security of states. For example, we have begun to explore issues such as the degree to which law and practice and attitudes concerning aspects of women's experience correlate and the possible existence of "syndromes" of treatment of women, with particular codings on one variable correlating with particular codings on other, seemingly unrelated variables. But perhaps more importantly, we have stated to asses the relationships to be found between independent variables measuring the status of women in society, and the dependent variables assessing aspects of internal, national, regional, and international security, including variables such as first use of force and adherence to international law.

Our research in these areas has already been published in top journals, including International Security and the Journal of Peace Research, and vetted at the United Nations, the US Department of Defense, the CIA, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A first book encapsulating our research, entitled Sex and World Peace, was published by Columbia University Press in 2012, about which Gloria Steinem said, “Sex & World Peace is a rare book that could and should change everything from our behavior toward each other to our foreign policy. Ever since it was published in 2012, I’ve been carrying it with me to quote wherever I speak, and urging it on anyone working against or worried about violence, whether in our own homes and streets, in our militarism toward other countries, or in the terrorism that’s directed at us.” The U.S. Department of Defense, through its Minerva Initiative, is funding WomanStats research examining gender-related sources of national instability.

Because the fate of nations is integrally tied to the status of women in society, the WomanStats Project has the potential to profoundly affect every society's understanding of itself and the most important determinants of national and international security and their current and future transformation.

Contact Information

Email address:

Principal Contact:
Professor Valerie M. Hudson
Department of International Affairs
4220 TAMU
1079 Allen Building
The Bush School of Government and Public Service College Station, Texas 77843 USA

Webmaster for Online Database (technical questions):
Joseph Cassler