One in four: Asia’s high rate of sexual violence
A UN survey has produced the shocking statistic that a quarter of men in Asian countries have committed physical or sexual violence against women
Courthouse steps: protesters in New Delhi, where four men were yesterday sentenced to death for the fatal gang rape of a student on a bus last December. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty
A United Nations study of 10,000 men in the Asia-Pacific region set out to reveal the true extent of rape culture in the region, but its findings – published this week – are far worse than even those familiar with the region were expecting.
About one in 10 men in some parts of Asia admitted raping a woman who was not their partner; when their wife or girlfriend was included, that figure rose to about a quarter.
Nearly half of the men interviewed in the study, entitled, “Why do some men use violence against women and how can we prevent it?” admitted using physical violence or sexual violence against their female partner. The questioners did not use the word “rape”.
The study is by UN body Partners for Prevention, and in it men were asked about how they used violence against women; other questions covered employment, childhood experience, gender attitudes and practices, childhood, sexuality, family life and health. Interviews were conducted with men at sites in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea.
Xia Xueruan, a sociology professor at Peking University, says the prevalence of traditional Asian culture had a lot to do with the issue, even though the region has undergone rapid economic growth in recent years.“For China, during the recent years of fast economic development, people seem to have lost their moral compass. And many people sometimes simply are confused with which to believe. Therefore, men dare to rape,” says Xia. “Moreover, the old concept in Asia that people treat women as inferior to men still remains, which means as a result that men may not think raping women is a major issue.”
Education is also a big factor. “The relatively low position for women in society makes them less likely to receive good education. Thus, many women do not know how to protect themselves and defend their rights.”
On Sina Weibo, China’s version of the banned Twitter, many commentators said they didn’t believe the survey. Zhu Shuofan, a surgeon at the Zhejiang Provincial People’s Hospital, said on his Sina Weibo account: “There are many countries in Southeast Asia. How can the UN jump to such stupid conclusion by only surveying six countries? Who is going to believe this UN report? How did the UN fabricate such a rumour?”
Gang rape in India has been in the news lately, but China has its own gang rape issues. In one ongoing case, Li Tianyi, the 17-year-old son of a well-known People’s Liberation Army (PLA) singer, is one of five men accused of gang-raping a 23-year-old woman, surnamed Yang, in a hotel in Haidian in the west of Beijing in February after a night of drinking.
He told the court he was drunk and could not remember anything of the evening, but denied beating the woman or having sex with her. Chen Shu, Mr Li’s lawyer, is arguing that the plaintiff was a prostitute, and the matter should be tried as a prostitution case rather than rape. In the West, the notion that rape of a prostitute is not possible is no longer something you hear in a courtroom, but attitides in Asian countries are different.