Nearly one out of four men in the Asia-Pacific region has raped a woman at least once in their life. Nearly one out of two raped someone for the first time while in their teens.
Almost 70 percent said they have experienced no legal repercussions for their acts. In Sri Lanka, that figure is 96.5 percent.
These are just some findings from a United Nations-led multi-country survey (pdf) about what could be called a rape epidemic in Asia and the South Pacific. More than 10,000 men and 3,000 women aged 18-49 between 2010 and 2013 were surveyed; all were from one of six countries, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka.
The findings are especially significant because more than one-half of the world’s population lives in the Asia South-Pacific region. While India was not included in the survey, the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student last December in the capital of Delhi, as well as a number of subsequent reports about violence against women including girls (some very young) and foreigners, has highlighted concerns about violence against women in the region.
New Survey Shows Rape More Widespread in Asia Pacific Region Than Thought
Those surveyed were asked certain highly sensitive questions via a hand-held device so their responses could be recorded anonymously. Researchers took care not to use terms such as “violence” and “rape” in the survey, rather asking questions such as “have you ever forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex?” and “have you ever had sex with a woman who was too drugged or drunk to indicate whether she wanted it?”
The authors of the survey emphasize its “unprecedented” scope. The results likely suggest that “rape is more widespread than we had thought, and the perpetration of rape starts earlier than people perhaps thought, which really highlights the need to start working with younger boys and girls to stop the violence,” says Emma Fulu of Partners for Prevention, a joint U.N. program that coordinated the study.
In particular, the survey‘s findings reveal how vast changes in attitudes towards women are urgently needed. According to the study, more than half of those who said they had committed a rape said they had done so “for entertainment.” More than 75 percent said they had done so because they felt “entitled.” 40 percent said they had forced a woman to have sex because they were angry or wanted to punish a woman.
Overall, half of the men interviewed said they had used physical and/or sexual violence against a female partner; the survey more than suggests the scope of domestic violence in the Asia-Pacific region. 10 percent of the men said they had raped, at least once, a woman who was not their partner. When rape of a partner was included, that figure was nearly 25 percent.
Men who had themselves suffered physical and/or sexual abuse were more likely to inflict sexual violence on someone else. While saying that men must certainly be held accountable for these crimes, Fulu underscored the importance of understanding the lives of men including the “emotional environment they grow up in, which has a big impact on violence later in life, as well as the other types of victimization, like homophobic bullying and violence and being raped themselves.”
Gender Inequality Must Be Addressed
Violence against women is “fundamentally about gender inequality,” the study states, noting that men who frequently quarreled with their partners, were controlling over their partners, paid for sex and expressed gender-inequitable attitudes were simply more likely to use violence against women.
The survey‘s findings are shocking. But they should not be used as grounds to restrict women’s freedoms and right to work, whether by not allowing them access to public spaces or by creating protective “safety” measures that curb women’s independence. Preventing violence against women calls for societal changes to truly, and fully, integrate women, through education, providing childcare, ensuring that they have economic opportunities and creating a legal system that does not condone violence against women.
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