Does the significance of rape depend on which country you live in? Many women are silenced by their horrific experiences, while many others lose the battle against the law.
Rape is a widespread issue in many nations, affecting hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. Ejaz Khan has compiled statistics on nations with the highest crime rate. He tells us that the U.S. carries the highest rate, with the UK 5th and India 4th. The U.S. averages 321,500 victims of rape or sexual assault every year.
In general, rape is considered a crime, committed when someone sexually forces themselves upon another without their consent. There can be many different types of rape, along with variations in where it happens and who it happens to. Different countries carry different laws, as well as different value of women relative to men, and particularly with rape crimes.
Many jurisdictions only consider rape to be an offense of a man against a woman. However, reports have shown that 1 out of 10 rapes reported is against a male victim. In addition, Criminal justice system statistics show that only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police, leaving 2 out of 3 unreported.
Society generally deems male-female rape as most serious. While male victims usually have the power and ability to speak out, many of them choose not to or cannot, as they fear or they realize that their experience will not be accepted as ‘rape.’ Although this is an issue in many countries, women who have been assaulted also experience challenges in reporting, depending on the jurisdiction.
Reporting rape as a woman has proved difficult in the past, and often still is. Particularly in locations where rape is not considered a crime, women victims suffer greatly with both gender inequality and the law against them.
The 2003 UK Sexual Offences Act provides for state prosecution of four specific acts – rape, assault by penetration, sexual assault, and causing a person to engage in sexual activity. An individual is considered guilty of one of these if they have not received consent from the other party, and if they act intentionally. India carries the same law, although until 2003 it excluded raping your marital partner (in some cases 15 years and younger). Indian laws differ from those of the UK as they allow marriage to someone much younger than you (e.g., a 40-year-old man may wed a 13-year-old girl).
In 2012, a case arose which shocked the nation, when a 23-year-old woman, Jyothi Singh, was gang-raped on a bus in Delhi, and her male friend brutally attacked and left on the road beside her. Jyohti sustained a considerable amount of sexual abuse, assault and trauma–and 13 days later, she was pronounced dead.
The case enraged the Indian public, along with the rest of the world. The men who had committed the rape were later interviewed and featured on the BBC documentary India’s Daughter. The documentary described the incident and explicitly questioned the men involved.
One of the rapists explained that Indian women do not have a place in their religion. He said that if a woman leaves the house after 8 pm without her father, or is dressed ‘inappropriately,’ she is “asking for it.”
The Jyohti case demonstrates the cultural differences between the various popular views on women’s rights. Within Indian culture, women are often seen as having less value than men.
As I’ve mentioned, popular views regarding women’s rights and equality can often differ greatly depending on cultural backgrounds. For example, women in the UK have great independence and are able to vote, while there are currently 32 countries in which women require their husband’s permission to apply for a passport.
Many countries have questionable customs and approaches toward women’s rights. Women in Saudi Arabia cannot drive (though that will be changing soon), and Egypt permits married women to leave the house “only for purposes allowed by the law or custom, otherwise, she needs her husband’s permission, or she loses her financial support.”
We are now entering the 18th year of the 21st century, and many women still face gender equality battles in their countries. It’s clear to see that although the UK has progressed massively on the issue, women in many other countries (such as India and Saudi Arabia) still face huge restrictions and limitations.
How long will this issue remain before women’s equality becomes ubiquitous in the nations of the world?
Harsimrun Chatha (Leicester, UK)