3Rwanda Is the World Leader in Gender Equality
If you know anything about Rwanda, the word "genocide" will likely turn up in your description, as well as a rant about how you need to put a vowel between the letters "R" and "W." But mostly the genocide thing. Back in the 1990s, Rwanda was one of the most violent places on Earth, and for the past couple of decades it's been ruled by a dictator, Paul Kagame, who has a funny way of making his political rivals disappear, while keeping a tight clamp on freedom of speech among his citizens. That's disappointing, because in terms of women's rights, Rwanda kind of shits on the rest of the world.
Rwanda's got so much gender equality, it's breaking (its own) world records for the highest proportion of women in office. In 2013, women won 64 percent of the seats in Rwanda's parliament. And they did so thanks to a voter turnout that would make Thomas Jefferson green with envy.
Assuming that he could feel anything besides pure swagger under that fur collar.
For a country that was basically synonymous with all the problems that Africa has become known for, it has undergone a pretty incredible transformation. Two decades ago, lawlessness, rape, and murder were endemic, but today you'll find harsh penalties for rape, hotlines for victims, and widespread access to contraception. And businesses are following the example set by Rwanda's female-led parliament, ending years of entrenched discrimination. It's also the cleanest country in Africa. Plastic bags are outright illegal (it's a $150 fine if they catch you), street hawkers aren't allowed, and armies of government-employed cleaners work around the clock to make sure there's no litter messing up the public spaces.
In fairness, it's easy to remember to stay tidy when half your trash is the remains of political dissidents.
And in case you assume that this is all just the happy mask they're using to cover up some really shady underground, it turns out that daily life in Rwanda is more or less as peaceful as it appears. Crime is low and police corruption is minimal, which is surprising for a country ruled by a guy who suspiciously gets over 90 percent of the vote each election.
2The Mongols Protected Religious Freedom
Notorious for ruthlessly subjugating the Asian continent, the Mongol Empire practically ruled the world back in the days when horsepower was a literal term and people wiped their asses with banana leaves. And while the Mongols indulged in an unprecedented amount of pillage and rape, they also endorsed some surprisingly modern policies, including religious tolerance.
Ivan Korzhev/Wiki Commons
"People of all faiths are equally invited to die by my hand."
Genghis Khan adhered to shamanism, but ensured that freedom of religion was protected for all his subjects. Foreign religions were welcomed, even if they contradicted shamanistic spiritual beliefs (to be fair, everything we know about shamanism we learned from Banjo-Kazooie). You see, even though he conquered entire civilizations with brute force, Genghis realized that to stay the ruler of a mighty empire, you have to keep the people happy. We imagine it was no simple feat teaching this concept to a man who impaled people just to say hello, but eventually Genghis came to see that marching into a country and forcing everyone to convert to some weird new religion isn't the best way to maintain power when your subjects outnumber you by the millions.
So the Mongol conquerors not only tolerated foreign religions among the populace, but nurtured them, going so far as to offer tax breaks to Daoist, Buddhist, Islamic, and Christian churches. Not to be outdone, Genghis' heir to the throne, Ogedei Khan, actually commissioned the construction of a bunch of new churches, mosques, and temples. He was thus able to cozy up to religious leaders and, as Dr. Dre would put it, stop shit from popping off. The only exception came under Genghis' grandson Kublai Khan, who singled out Daoists, because they scratched his new Benz or something.
"In your next lives, come back as someone that can respect a man's S-Class."