Imagine a country where a fifth of women had been sexually assaulted, where two women a week were killed by their partners, where women who report rape have a one in 20 chance of getting a conviction and where as many as 10,000 women and girls were trafficked into the country every year for sexual exploitation.
Imagine then that these women had little voice, struggling with one of the biggest pay gaps in Europe and were hugely underrepresented at the top of all of the major professions - policing, Civil Service, local councils, teaching, law and politics.
This is the shocking reality of life in Britain.
For over a century now, International Women's Day has been celebrated across the world to recognise the political achievements and social progress of past, present and future generations of women. It is right that we pause and celebrate the incredible achievements of so many women, despite the considerable barriers they face.
But as a developed nation Britain has a responsibility to lead the way on women's rights and to act as a safe haven for women from countries where their rights are still not fully recognised.
I am proud of the spirit, courage and ambition that has spurred women on to great achievements and advances for us all. But the prospects for girls growing up today are increasingly challenging.
To put it starkly, this government is threatening to compromise over 100 years of progress with a series of reckless reforms that will have a disproportionate impact on women, threatening their rights, dignity and independence.
Taken together the cuts to public services and welfare reform will have a disproportionate effect on women, amounting to an all-out assault on their living standards.
Of the 710,000 public-sector redundancies expected before 2017, 65 per cent are likely to be female. Add to this the fact that 150,000 lone parents will lose an average of £728 per year as a result of the bedroom tax - which threatens to make 5,000 families homeless - and the cuts to childcare benefits and legal aid which will leave many women powerless in legal proceedings, and it is not difficult to see why women's support for David Cameron is so low.
This government has appointed half the number of women Cabinet ministers as Gordon Brown, and as Counting Women In (a coalition of organisations including Fawcett and the Hansard Society) has showed, just 22.5 per cent of MPs are female while a shameful 12.4 per cent of council leaders are women.
This denies women a strong voice and has a huge impact on the issues that make up the political debate.
Women face an average pay gap of 15 per cent compared to their male colleagues at a time when living standards are facing the biggest squeeze in living memory.
Women's participation in the labour market is falling as childcare costs continue to outstrip wages. No surprise then that women's organisations such as the Fawcett Society are growing increasingly concerned.
For all women the situation is tough, but for some women it is much worse. Perhaps the most damning indictment of the government's attitude towards women is the fact that it shows no intention of addressing the appalling way in which refugee women are treated.
One-third of people applying for asylum in Britain each year are women, and the UN has acknowledged that refugee women are more affected by violence than any other group.
As a result a significant proportion of refugee women living in this country have experienced violence, including rape or sexual violence prior to arrival, and they remain at risk of violence in the very country in which they have sought asylum.
Single parents in the asylum system, the majority of whom are women, are entitled to just £43.94 a week - just over £6 a day and equivalent to only 65 per cent of the meagre financial support received by single parents in the social welfare system.
Poverty has specifically been documented as increasing the risk of sexual violence and analysis by the Children's Society shows that insufficient support for asylum-seekers is leaving around 10,000 children in severe poverty for much of their childhood.
This week's speculation that the government is planning tough new measures on immigration threatens to cause further harm for the many thousands of migrant women who rely on Britain to provide a safe haven.
Instead of getting a grip on the immigration system the government is getting tough with the vulnerable people in it - many of whom are women. Particularly concerning are potential plans to restrict access to health care for migrants, a policy that will have a negative impact on women, as documented by the Refugee Council and Maternity Action in their recent report.
The truth is that despite the outstanding achievements of many women in Britain and abroad far too many are prevented from doing the same, to our collective detriment.
The liberal reformer John Stuart Mill described the subjection of women as "one of the chief hindrances to human improvement," denying us all the full benefit of the talents of half the population.
More than a century later on International Women's Day the government must wake up to the devastating impact its choices are having on women in this country - leaving our society, collectively, all the poorer for it.
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