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Rape Beyond India

The brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi caught the attention of the world last month, highlighting the routine danger that women face everywhere, every day.

Yet survey data suggests that rape is more common than most men – and many women – would typically assume. Since the early 1990s, the International Crime Victim Survey has asked women around the world whether in the last five years they have experienced sexual assault, and if so, whether this was in the form of actual rape, attempted rape, or a more minor form of harassment. The results can be shocking: in some countries of Africa, such as Swaziland, as many as one in every 9 women has recently had to fend off a successful or unsuccessful rape attempt.

Even in Western countries, the numbers are high. In France, one in every 79 women has experienced a recent such assault; in the Czech Republic, this rises to one in 49 – the highest level in the European Union. In countries such as Russia or Belarus, the figure goes to 1 in 37. This means that an average Facebook user, with around 200 friends, would know several women who have been recent rape targets.

As the high occurrence rate of rape becomes more public, more victims are likely to come forward and put this issue in the spotlight. Yet as the numbers show, there is a very long way to go.

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