Research and policy analysis on gender, development, and globalization have focused extensively on the changing roles and social status of women as one of the keys to reaching global development goals and improving social well-being. Yet at the same time as scholars and advocates highlight the importance of women's autonomy as a key to economic development, the international media are filled with tales and reports of public gang rapes, acid burnings, honor killings, and gang kidnapping and enslavement. We combine observations about growing class inequality among men, theories of male overcompensation, insights on the global crisis of patriarchy, and transaction-cost analyses of asset specificity and sunk costs to explain this gender-based violence.

The data required to assess the causes, prevalence, and effects of public gender-based violence are sparse, and this affects our ability to come to definitive conclusions and policy recommendations. In addition to recommending better and more vigorous data collection on public gender-based violence directed at women and girls, we briefly discuss two possible scenarios that could frustrate attempts to improve the status of women in rapidly developing societies or lead to long-term, sustainable gains.

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