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Rape Widespread Across Asia-Pacific, U.N. Survey Says

Activists march during an anti-rape rally on June 18 in Kolkata, India.
Nicky Loh
Getty Images
Activists march during an anti-rape rally on June 18 in Kolkata, India.

A U.N. study released Tuesday of 10,000 men in six countries across the Asia-Pacific region found nearly 1 in 4 acknowledged raping a woman.

The report found:

"Men begin perpetrating violence at much younger ages than previously thought. Half of those who admitted to rape reported their first time was when they were teenagers; 23 percent of men who raped in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, and 16 percent in Cambodia were 14 years or younger when they first committed this crime.

"Of those men who had admitted to rape, the vast majority (72-97 percent in most sites) did not experience any legal consequences, confirming that impunity remains a serious issue in the region.

"Across all sites, the most common motivation that men cited for rape was related to sexual entitlement — a belief that men have a right to sex with women regardless of consent. Over 80 percent of men who admitted to rape in sites in rural Bangladesh and China gave this response.

"Overall, 4 percent of respondents said they had perpetrated gang rape against a woman or girl, ranging from 1 to 14 percent across the various sites. This is the first time we have data from such a large sample of men on the perpetration of gang rape."

(The website for Partners For Prevention, which conducted the survey, is down. You can visit the group's Facebook page by clicking here.)

The 10,000 men were interviewed across nine sites in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea.

The survey notes that the data were representative of the nine sites where the interviews were conducted — not of the region as a whole or the individual countries.

The survey did not include India, the site of some recent high-profile rape cases, including the one in New Delhi for which four men were found guilty Tuesday.

The U.N. maintains statistics of rape and other forms of sexual violence. Global Post has put together a chart highlighting reported rapes around the world — but it is difficult to gauge the reliability. They are, after all, self-reported by governments.

For instance, the United States reported 85,593 rapes in 2010; that's 27.6 rapes per 100,000 people.

Sweden, meanwhile, reported 5,960 rapes that year; or 51.8 rapes per 100,000 people.

India reported 22,172 rapes — or 1.8 rapes per 100,000 people.

Asian countries, on average, had fewer reported rapes than Western ones. Arab countries had some of the lowest reported rapes. And Africa, with the exception of Botswana, also reported few rapes.

Some have suggested that the U.S. and European countries have better reporting systems than other places where victims of sexual violence may feel they have little or no access to justice.

As The Wall Street Journal noted:

"According to criminologists, these surprising numbers are among many that suggest a need for, well, better numbers. Official figures include only crimes reported to police. What criminologists call the "dark figure" of unreported crime isn't captured, and those missing incidents can greatly outnumber reported ones, especially for rape. The rate of underreporting can also vary sharply by country. And a nation that makes headway in encouraging more victims to come forward will appear, in its official stats, to have a worsening rape problem."

The results of the U.N. survey were also published in the journal Lancet.

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.