Is India the Rape Capital of the World?

We're horrified by news reports of rape in India and feel lucky we don't live there. But the country with the highest rate of sexual assault isn't India—it's us

by Sally Kohn
trent mays and ma'lik richmond in court
Trent Mays, 17 (left), and Ma'lik Richmond, 16 (center), were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl
Photograph: Associated Press

Americans are reading with horror as sexual assault after sexual assault unfolds in India. It’s easy to wonder, “What’s wrong with that country?” But we should be asking what’s wrong with the United States, too.

Rape and violence against women are a massive problem in India.  According to the country's National Crime Record Bureau, crimes against women have increased by 7.1 percent since 2010. The number of rapes reported has also risen.  Nearly one in three rape victims in India is under the age of 18.  One in 10 are under 14. Every 20 minutes in India, a woman is raped.

And yet India only ranks third for the number of rapes reported each year. What country ranks first?  The United States. In India, a country of over 1.2 billion people, 24,206 rapes were reported in 2011.  The same year in the United States, a nation of 300 million, 83,425 rapes were reported. In the United States, every 6.2 minutes a woman is raped.

Even if sexual assault in India is dramatically underreported, which most likely it is, the statistical difference is still striking—as is our uniquely American inclination to dismiss such monstrous human rights violations as problems that other countries face. Not only is violence against women a global pandemic but the United States may be leading the pack.

Oh, but you think, women who've been sexually assaulted in America are better treated. Rape victims in India, especially in rural villages, are often subject to shaming and considered unfit for marriage. But meanwhile, in Steubenville, Ohio, two young men who were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl too intoxicated to consent continue to be defended as upstanding football players while the reputation of the young woman is smeared. When the verdict was announced, a CNN reporter came close to portraying the rapists as passive victims: “These two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.” Other media coverage seemed equally sympathetic to the perpetrators. 

Meanwhile, the victim was blamed. Early on, one of the 19 coaches of the Steubenville High football team said the victim was just making up the rape. The victim and her family had to get police protection due to the level of threats against them. Two weeks ago, a prominent local activitist in Steubenville spoke about the “alleged victim” (even though the allegations had turned into a conviction) and suggested, according to a reporter, that the victim “might have been a willing participant”. Meanwhile, the woman who broke the story of the rape—she is a local blogger—has been harassed and threatened.

Isolated incident of smearing and shaming the victim? Afraid not. Just weeks after the Steubenville story broke, two high school football players in Torrington, Connecticut were accused of raping a 13-year-old girl. The response? Dozens of people from the town took to social media to berate and blame the 13-year-old accuser.  

Share Your Thoughts!

Comments

Tika Rani06.11.2014

There is no comparison. In India I can't ride a bus or any public transport, cannot enjoy a day picnicing at a park, reading on a bench, relaxing at a beach or meditating outside during sunrise or sunset, without getting "eve teased" (google it).
In the US I regularly do all these things with no botheration whatsoever.
While rapes *might* be higher in the US (and that is a big *might*), the day to day life here is so much easier and freer for women because one is not getting stared at and eve teased at ever turn.
I love my traditional Indian (classical Hindu) culture. Its such a shame that I cannot take my children to live and grow up in that beautiful land due to eve teasing and other horrific day to day realities.
So until India weeds this and other dysfunctional traits out of its system, we will stay in the US and I will teach my children meditation and classical Hindu practices as we sit peacefully on the beach during sunset and sunrise.

Zakir Hasan06.09.2014

In India reported rape is very low. Indian consider rape is not a crime, a social problem (till its reported properly with police). Rape and sex is part of Indian culture and religion. Devdasis of Indian temples are sex worker but not prostitute collected from untouchable class the Dalit. Upper class Hindus consider Dalit women are their sex enjoyment. No Dalits have the guts to lodge a complain with police for rape, first question asked in police station is what social class they belong if the answer is Dalit, chapter is closed there. Even in court upper class sex offender get soft treatment over Dalit sex victim. Seriously reconsider rape statistics in India.

Madhu Sameer05.31.2014

I have lived in all three regions - India, Middle East, and in US overextended periods of time. I agree with the author that respect for women and children is the worst in US. Sure there are laws here, but the laws are implemented by a patriarchical society where males have more power. The police is as corrupt here than in India, except that the corruption is more in terms of racism. Women are treated like crap in US, and when I first came here, I was apalled and would take it personally, till I realised that it is just how the culture is. So horrific have been my experiences in and of United States that I am leaving the country next year for good with my children. I do not wish to bring up my children in this society. I feel more protected by law, and society in India and Middle East. Sure we have horrible men like these rapists, but the rest of the men in these regions have compassion and decency. In my opinion, in this country, even the judiciary is aligned against women and children. All laws, all talk, all hot air...att PR to seduce the world - nothing in reality.

Joy private05.03.2014

This article is absolutely ridiculous. You have not done your research trying to prove America is not better off than India. American’s are under the false impression regarding the treatment of women and India better. Are you for real!?!?!? You just pulled cases to prove your point. Also the statistics you used was the crime committed by immigrants or American citizens? If you are going to write something make sure you have all your facts. I will admit America is not perfect and we have room to grow. We haven’t chosen our first Women president we are well aware Women have struggles in the U.S. However it is nothing compared to how India treats its women. Not all rape cases are handled the same.

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