Rape | A World Pandemic


Open up the papers on any day of the week and you are bound to find another article on rape. It is a pandemic. No corner of the world is safe from it.

I tend to get my daily news from the Guardian. The world’s attention is once again focused on rape and violence against women in India. 

Connaught-place-inner-circle-1On Tuesday, a Danish woman was gang-raped near Connaught Place, a popular shopping location in the centre of New Delhi. She was lost and asked for directions. Is this what things have come to? A 51-year-old woman getting beaten and robbed, raped for daring to ask for a helping hand. No arrests were made.

Visiting India had been long on my list of must dos, but I have to admit I will not be making my way to the subcontinent in a hurry. Until the Indian government takes the issue with the seriousness it deserves, no woman – whether local or a tourist – is safe in that place. I have no desire to become yet another number in government statistics: one of 1,330 rapes reported in Delhi and its suburbs between January and October last year.

India requires more than stringent laws and doubling prison terms for rape. It needs more than criminalising voyeurism and stalking. What ought to change in India is public attitude. When interviewed, men are still of the opinion that a woman walking unaccompanied in public is asking for it. The gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in December 2012 may have caused public fury for a time, but it does’t appear to have brought about substantial change when it comes to conservative, patriarchal attitudes towards women.

“This mindset is not changing,” said Ranjana Kumari, director of India’s Centre for Social Research, “It’s a huge challenge.”

BasketmouthIndia is not the only place where sexual violence is rife. Nigeria is another such place. It comes as no surprise then that earlier this year, Nigerian and other African commentators turned on comedian Basketmouth when he posted a joke on social media trivialising rape.

Basketmouth though it appropriate to say that while white women put out after a couple of dates, African women keep holding out, so on the ninth date a bit of rape is required. This in a country where sexual violence is an epidemic. Not funny and very irresponsible.


Let us not forget of the Kenyan case too, where protesters took to the streets in Nairobi, after six men gang-raped a 16-year-old girl. The girl, who was attacked after walking home from her grandfather’s funeral in June, was able to make a positive ID of her assailants. Their punishment? Cutting grass.

The US fares no better. One of six U.S. women has experienced an attempted or completed rape. Yet did you know that in most states the legal definition of rape continues to require the use of physical force?

I’ve written in the past that the majority of women are raped by men they know. In fact, nine out of ten cases of rape are not perpetrated by strangers and yet criminal law fails to acknowledge this. Most rapes by friends, family and acquaintances are never prosecuted because, unlike sexual assaults by knife-wielding sexual predators, such rape cases involve little force. So if a woman is attacked, she’s better make sure that she gets a good beating too, because being raped in itself will not secure a conviction. How can this be? 

Intercourse without consent is rape. American criminal justice ought to get in line with the times and allocate punishment accordingly.


The A to Z of RAPE

A woman who reports rape in Afghanistan risks facing more violence by becoming the victim of honour killings perpetrated by her family as well as being further victimised by being charged with adultery, a crime punishable by death. 

In Bangladesh, women are subjected to the “two-finger test” in rape investigations, where a doctor inserts two fingers in the woman’s vagina to determine whether the woman is “habituated to sex” – a test also known to be used in India.

In Cambodia rape is estimated to be common, but only a very small minority of these assaults are ever reported. Women who report rape have to endure the social stigma attached to losing virginity before marriage, even when raped.

Denmark is one of few developed countries to maintain several marital exemptions in its legislation, making the prosecution of husbands who rape their wives an uphill struggle. Amnesty International has “repeatedly urged the government [of Denmark] to bring legislation on rape in line with international law. It is very disappointing that Denmark has rejected related recommendations made in the review, referring to an expert review that has been pending for two years.” (2011)

Similarly, marital rape is yet to be criminalised in Egypt. During the current Egyptian protests rape was carried out publicly and on the 3rd of July 2013, it was reported that between 91 and 169 women were raped and sexually abused in Tahrir Square in four days.

In Italy traditional attitudes towards rape have been slow in changing. Until relatively recently, it was considered an acceptable solution for a woman to marry the man who raped her as part of the rehabilitation process. There was too the infamous 1999 “tight jeans” case where the Italian Court of Cassation declared a man not guilty of rape because the woman was wearing tight jeans and it was impossible to forcibly remove them, apparently. It took the court nine years to overturn the ruling.

Rape is Lesotho‘s main social issue with the highest incidence of any country: of 1,049 women, 33% said they had been raped by the age of 18. 

In 2013, the violent gang-rape of six Spanish women in Acapulco made the authorities question the safety of tourists in Mexico.

Rape in Pakistan continues to be a tool for suppressing women. The case of Uzma Ayub, a 16 year old girl, who was abducted by a soldier and policeman and repeatedly raped by several men, including an army official and policemen, springs to mind. This is a country where teenage girls are burnt alive when resisting rape and yet on the 12th of July 2013, Council of Islamic Ideology of Pakistan dismissed DNA tests as evidence for rapes, and declared that without witnesses no rapes would be recognised. It beggars belief.

The rate of sexual violence in Papua New Guinea is shocking: a UN study on Men and Violence found that 62% of men from Bougainville Island had raped a woman and 7.6% had raped a man. 14% had participated in gang rape. 69.3% had raped more than once. 15.5% had four or more victims. 71% reported their motivation being sexual entitlement, 63% said they raped for entertainment, and 50% said they raped out of anger or to punish a woman.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world, with some 65,000 rapes and other sexual assaults reported in 2012.

A woman is raped every 90 minutes in Sri Lanka. Yet it takes six to twelve years to resolve a rape case and 96.5% of the men who rape experience no legal consequences.

Sweden has the highest incidence of reported rapes in Europe with 46 incidents of rape per 100,000 residents.

Yemen law does not recognize marital rape and does not provide a minimum age for marriage. Child marriage and child rape in the context of marriage is an appalling result of this legislative failure.

“In order to end violence against women, we have to end violence against children. If we end violence against children, we have a huge impact on violence of all kinds perpetuated across the globe,” said Rachel Jewkes, the lead technical adviser for a UN study in Asia and the Pacific where one in four men surveyed admitted raping at least one woman.



Daily Prompt: Ripped from the Headlines

90 thoughts on “Rape | A World Pandemic

  1. Vic- a very important issue that you have spelled out clearly and concisely. We need to be talking about this more- and not just in the context of reaction to stories about incidents in countries that we consider, with our Western complacency and ignorance, to be ‘other’. Great post.

    • Thank you, and certainly I believe this is an important issue, even if a difficult one to discuss. I think many are unaware of quite how wide spread the problem is. I have written on the topic before, but it is one issue that current events keeps brining back to the forefront. Although we legislate for it in the West, unfortunately it continues to be a problem. I agree too that there is no point in sweeping it under the rug and pointing the finger elsewhere: it is here to stay unless something is done about it.

    • I thought you may be interested to know that there will be a discussion thread on Friday based on this post, hosted by Sorcerer’s blog.
      Warm regards,

  2. What can I say except that this is the main reason that I rarely venture out alone even though I like driving and travelling. There is always that dark shadow of fear of something like this following.

    • Isn’t this terrible that you should not be free to do the things you love for the fear of being attacked? I am sorry KG. I have to say that in the UK – despite rape being a problem – I have not as yet had to live in fear and for this I am grateful. Thank you for your comment. Illuminating.

  3. I can’t like this, but we do need to pull it out in the open and have a discourse as a first step toward change. Rape is wrong. People who rape are wrong. There is no justification for rape. Women gave you life, women cared for you, women should be protected or what will happen to our species? It’s so frustrating that men in power in so many countries view this lightly, slap perpetrators on the wrist and then sit back, enjoying the benefits of “subservient” women, secretaries, clerks, wives, daughters. They are complicit.

      • And because I find it hard to understand the wrongs in their minds, I’ll just bluntly say that they’re ignorant. And ignorance really annoys me, because it’s almost impossible to justify your own self to these kind of people.

  4. Just plain scary, and saddening – makes you hang your head in shame to be a man. I fear that justice is merely a word to be bandied about, and until a true state of equality between men and women exists then crimes involving sexual domination will persist. Like your handling of this.

    • Thank you, Chris. I did my best – it is a rather difficult subject to handle. Disturbingly, even in places like Sweden, which prides itself on gender equality, rape is yet to be eradicated. At least the crime is reported more than elsewhere. Enabling women to report is the first step, although if nothing is done after that…

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  6. Shocking, sobering facts…statistics but very necessary to bring to light (and jolt me from my middle-class complacency). Until misogynist attitudes change and patriarchal societies reform, I can’t see much change in the short-term.
    Thanks Vic, for raising awareness – it’s just so necessary. 🙂

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  8. I had no idea as to the level of this horror. The statistics and stories outlined are terrifying. So much hatred perpetrated against women and men. My god, how has the world come to this pass? I don’t even know what to say. It chills me to the core. I am stunned. All I can do right now is reblog this. It’s too devastating not to be known about.
    I want to say thank you for raising my awareness of this. But I also want to cry that I have to even know this. I just had no idea. I’m so sorry for my ignorance. I don’t know where to go with this information and what to do with it. But I will think. This has to change. There has to be a way.

    I’m sorry too that you had to go through the research for this post. It must have been harrowing for you. God bless you for taking on that task and letting us know. x

    • Thank you, scottishmomus. The scale and depth of the problem are truly terrifying. Do not apologise for not knowing, after all we all get our news from the media and for some reason this is not seen as a priority by our TV networks or print media. Whenever they do speak of rape cases, which is often, it is presented as something that happens mostly elsewhere, in far away countries. They never make the connection on a global scale. Thank you for the reblog. Raising awareness is important, even if insufficient in itself.

  9. I’m at a loss here, can’t even digest this willingly.

    Viki, as extensive as your research is, it blows the mind to think there are still far too many cases of rape that are not recorded. Ours is a male dominated world and these men forget the origin of their existence…WOMEN!

    This is a culture that has enveloped the entire globe and sadly, laws makers are yet to protect victims properly and punish perpetrators to the full extent warranted. I’m so glad you cited the case of Basket Mouth in Nigeria, it’s a typical example of how they trivialize rape. Nigeria like India, is a place where they hide under any and everything on earth to justify this heinous crime.

    The bottom line, IMO is that we as parents, guardians, never relent in educating our children and wards. Many people see rape as a sex crime, they do not consider the underlying trigger in many instances of rape. There are depraved and small minds who use rape as punishment on females or victims, anything to show or prove to the victim that they are dominant or superior.

    Men rape ex-partners, and wives, to humiliate and show them who is boss. The mental orientation of people should be of the greatest interest from conception, because this is what shapes and decides the sort of person a child will grow into. So nurture does play a big role in this.

    As long as we have chauvinistic immoral men, who dominate the leadership of our world, we will continue to see such depraved acts, committed against the most vulnerable and innocent of our society.

    When we begin to respect WOMANHOOD, cherish and honor the vessel which gives life, perhaps we will start seeing a shift in behavior generally.

    This is one of the saddest and most painful posts I’ve read of late. it’s simply numbing.

    • Dear Dotta, thank you. It was a sad and painful post to write too. Prompted by one headline, once I started delving deeper I realised that although India has been in the news a lot of late for rape, the problem is not confined to that country alone. The more I read, the more difficult it became to write on. After writing this post, I saw on the news that Nigeria passed a law criminalising homosexuality further, so that even going to a gay bar could land a person in prison for 10 years. I also read that despite being oil rich (to my understanding one of the richest in Africa) more than half of the population survives on under a dollar a day and that poverty and illness are widespread… I think I may need to take a break from news for a while, except for I can’t seem to make myself keep silent. Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment. I agree with every thought you shared.

  10. I’m going to be the voice against ‘reasonable’ discourse. There will never be a change in most mens minds regarding what they see as their “God given right” to use a female as they wish whilst the punishment is non existent.
    As unpalatable as the truth may be, sex offenders, even those who are chemically castrated re offend within a short time. Why? Because they can. They stop their medication and they believe they are being badly treated. Read the same for Pedophiles.
    As for wanting to change from a patriarchal society – I can’t see it happening any time soon. They have the strength of arms and will not willingly succumb to change.
    Example, just recently there was a 40 member ‘family’ commune in Australia… Aunts and Uncles had children with their children, brothers and sisters had children together cousins. Generations of ‘in breeding’. There were documented instances of babies dying due to the congenital defects of close relatives breeding. This is the type of mentality of a larger scale we must change. Talk will not do it. I’m sorry, my opinion only.
    Yes, I have been on the investigating side of too many assaults, rapes, murders to be optimistic that talk can fix things.

    • Thank you, Susan. You are right to caution against being too optimistic when it comes to change, but luckily there are many women leaders, activists, doctors and members of the community who a making a difference in their countries, and this gives me hope that – although very slow in pace – some changes are taking place.
      And you are right of course that talk is not enough, but we all have to start somewhere. We cannot change what we are unaware of, and I believe that since this topic is still taboo in many countries (a fellow blogger sent me an interesting link on France regarding this) acknowledging that it is a problem is a first step towards looking for a solution.

      • Thanks, You are probably right, I tend to be a little sceptical and cynical at times. But thanks you for bringing this subject into the spotlight Perhaps from here we can effect some change for the better,
        Blessings, Susan x

      • I am sure that when one works directly in a field, as you have done, you get a better understanding of how slow the pace of change truly is. Thank you for your insights, Susan. They are valuable in this context.

      • Thank you – I realise I become a little forceful sometimes. I won’t excuse myself by saying it’s because of….. it’s a hateful crime and inexcusable. If I made a contribution then I am grateful for that.
        Bless Susan x

  11. This is absolutely awful. Excellent Blog. So thankful for blogging about this. Please read all followers of this Blog! Get the word out and be safe wherever you are!

  12. UGH! This is INFURIATING, to say the least.

    The stats here are enough to make any woman freaking paranoid. As in not wanting to even walk the DOG by herself.

    It’s maddening though. A mother struggles with labor pains–brings her son into the world–only for him to end up being a Rapist! Now that’s incredibly shitty.

    • It is infuriating, you are quite right, and it is so much worse than that. I recently read an article about a woman who got raped when on a cycling trip with her husband. Not even in company are women safe. There are so many instances of men being killed when trying to defend their partner. I can’t fully understand what would ever determine a man to rape. When the UN survey was done in Asia and the Pacific, men admitted that their primary motivation was entitlement. They simply thought that they have a right to another person’s body if that’s what they wanted. Others raped for entertainment or to punish. It beggars belief.

  13. I found you in the middle of the night!! I’m still flabbergasted by this article. Excellent post
    Unbelievable that this are the numbers for the whole world.
    Anyone said women’s rights had advanced? Wow … Reblog! TY …

  14. Am saddened by the rape numbers that keep popping up whenever I need to conduct a study in that regard. It makes me question my manhood and the difference that presents with the men who rape women.

    So I keep asking myself whether such men are even capable of love for the most fragile gender (female) under the sun.

    What makes it worse is the tendency of governments across the globe helping sexual offenders rape our women by not passing stringent enough measures to curb the pandemic that’s fast growing like terminal cancer.

    I appeal to fellow men to exercise a form of restraint to not give into the urge for the ugly act of rape that robs our children, sisters, mothers and grand children of the little innocence left in them in this pathetic world not forgetting their dignity and the ability to love.

    God bless us all and may my kind drift from such evil that we inflict upon each other to a better place that’s worth boasting of by our proud sons and daughters and future generations.

  15. This is a very important Issue which seems to be getting worse on the face of it as we hear reports so quickly now through the media as the internet brings us information much quicker… Men have dominated women and abused children I guess from the dawning of time….
    It sickens me to my core that those in power do hardly anything to change the laws in their lands.. This has a much darker side to it.. For Women are kept in fear within those nations… And our energy has been broken through repeated abuse of this kind throughout the past..
    The feminine energies though are beginning to return, and this is why in 2012 the Delhi gang rape fuelled outrage and protests.. Awareness is now being brought via the outcries of the public and women in these areas … I wish more would speak out as you have done… And harsher sentences need to be in place…

    Its only the tip of the iceberg I know… But Awareness Brings about CHANGE… and these women should not have to endure this violation which seems to have become acceptable to some…
    And they themselves get blamed for being raped… Its horrendous…
    Peace and Blessings to you

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    • Thank you, Lizzie. You raise a very important point regarding the wider impact this has not only on survivors of rape and their families, but on the larger community and consequently on society as a whole.

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  20. Hey, I’m thinking I will build a post around this for Friday. Any idea where I can get info on how they constructed that rare-endemic scale?

    What I am seeing is that, nowhere on this whole planet is rape rare. The best we can do is unusual in Canada, Australia, France, and Norway. That’s very troubling, and very striking.

    It also occurs to me that, relatively speaking, at least the first three (I know nothing about Norway) seem to be good at teaching women to assert their own autonomy and educating men to respect women as people. I could be wrong – that’s based on interactions I’ve had with people from those countries over the years and nothing more.

    Sad that rape is “not uncommon” in the US, the UK, and most of Europe. I’m really interested to know what’s different there. That may be the starting point for a discussion. Then there’s Argentina. The difference between Argentina and the rest of South America is curious.

    I’d love to be able to make at least a reasonable guess about how many of these differences are just measurement error, and how many are due to differences in reporting rates.

    • Thank you, Gene’O. I look forward to your post and certainly will come by to read the tread and comment. I am startled by these statistics every time I see them. It never gets easier, and yes: it is not a rarity anywhere in the world. I think certainly that attitudes to women in society plays a key role in this. When women are regarded as somehow inferior, or when their bodies are seen as the rightful property of men, then the necessary social boundaries are broken: a man can do whatever he likes with his property.
      Speaking of property, Locke I think was the first who referred to one’s body as being a part of that concept. I think early feminists built on that to reclaim it.
      Argentina is an interesting case. The population is mostly of European descent, which is unusual in South America and although they speak Spanish, I noticed that there is very little of the machismo culture in Argentina when compared to her neighbours. This may have played a role. At least, it may be a good place to start.

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  22. This post leaves me virtually speechless. You did a very thorough job of laying out the statistics. This is a horrible indictment of the 21st century. I wish every naysayer would look into this as deeply as you have and face the facts.

    I spent a summer in India awhile back, and I lived in both Brazil and Puerto Rico and saw none of this nor ever felt threatened, but I was with my husband, so that may have played a part.

    Coincidentally, my post this week is loosely related to the attitudes that still linger all over the world toward women, but specifically in the US, which is deplorable. Thank you for shining light on this serious problem. And, as a child psychologist, I agree 150% – it all starts with how we treat another vulnerable population: children.

    • I am always shocked to discover that there are people out there who deny the truth of this deeply troubling development both within their own societies and around the world. We are none of us exempt from it. I wish that were not the case, but denying it won’t change on the ground reality.
      Regarding your experience of India and Latin America: I think you are right that being accompanied by your husband made a difference. I visited Brussels on my own a couple of years ago and could not walk three paces without being harassed by a random stranger. The moment a male friend joined me, all harassment evaporated. When I shared what had happened he was surprised, but acknowledged that his girlfriend had often complained of having to endure similar treatment on a regular basis as well. Never in his company however, hence his initial reaction.
      Thank you for letting me know about your post. Will certainly read it, although unfortunately it may have to wait until the weekend (time-management issues).

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