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One in Four Men Surveyed in Asian Study Say They Raped

Women in Bangladesh
Women are seen through a pipe at a construction site in Dhaka. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Almost one in four men surveyed in Asia said they committed rape at least once, in a study that may encourage renewed steps to prevent sexual violence.

Researchers interview more than 10,000 men at nine sites in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka in the first multi-country survey on the prevalence of rape, said Rachel Jewkes of South Africa’s Medical Research Council, one of the authors of the article published today in The Lancet Global Health journal.

One in 10 men said they had raped a woman who wasn’t their partner, the researchers found. When partners were included, the figure rose to 24 percent. Just under half of the perpetrators said they had raped more than one woman. The rates of violation differed between the sites: 11 percent of men questioned in Bangladesh said they had committed rape, compared to 60 percent in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

“We really need to understand more,” Jewkes said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Bangladesh is not a particularly violent country, but the prevalence of non-partner rape is far higher than one would presume.”

The findings should encourage steps to prevent rape, such as supporting better parenting and promoting a more gender-equitable view of masculinity, the authors wrote. The gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in New Delhi last year shocked India and drew attention to the scale of sexual violence against women. Four men accused in the assault were found guilty by an Indian court today.

Indirect Questions

The men in the survey were questioned by trained male interviewers, and were left alone to record the answers to the most sensitive questions. The word “rape” wasn’t used. Men were asked indirect questions such as, “Have you ever forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex?”

Previous studies focused on the female victims, Jewkes said; research on the male perpetrators had been limited to a study in South Africa.

The most common reason men gave for the violence was sexual entitlement, followed by entertainment and the wish to punish the woman. Rates for men raping men ranged from 1.5 percent of those surveyed in Indonesia to 7.7 percent in Papua New Guinea.

Since the research was limited to nine sites, the findings don’t represent the entire Asia-Pacific region, the author said. The numbers found do correspond with women’s accounts, Jewkes said, underlining the report’s validity.

‘Safer Future’

The researchers found that men who had themselves been abused as children were more likely to commit rape. Men with a history of physical violence against a partner, or who had paid for sex or had had a large number of sexual partners were more likely to rape someone they didn’t know.

“The challenge is now to turn evidence into action, to create a safer future for the next generation of women and girls,” a group of researchers led by Michele Decker of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in an accompanying comment.

The research is part of a wider United Nations report on violence against women released today. Funding for the study came from UN agencies and programs, and the governments of Australia, the U.K., Norway and Sweden.

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