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

Mallika Dutt runs Breakthrough, an organization that works to build human rights culture in India and the United States. Dutt says the differences between the two countries are more perceived than real. “There’s an assumption that [in America] we’re more evolved, that we’re more civilized, that the status of women is waaaaay better than the status of women in India or any other part of the world,” says Dutt. 

That's untrue, says Dutt, and the false comfort may do Americans more harm than good. “It's always easier to ascribe negative attributes to the other than to than yourself,” she says. But such denial means we focus on the problems elsewhere to the detriment of improving conditions here in the United States as well. Violence against women anywhere should be a reminder to scrutinize injustice everywhere, including right here at home.

The encouraging fact is that while the U.S. still ranks first in the world for reported rapes, the number is declining here while statistics suggest India is moving in the other direction. In the U.S. the rate of reported rapes decreased by over 12 percent between 2002 and 2011. Over the last two decades, rates of domestic violence have dropped by more than 50 percent. And while only half of Americans in 1987 said it is "always wrong" for a man to beat his wife with a belt or a stick, a decade later 86 percent said it is wrong. That’s progress. But from Dallas to Delhi and everywhere in between, there’s still much more progress to be made.

Sally Kohn is a writer, television pundit and communications consultant. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Salon, Reuters, USA Today, Politico and Time.

Click here to read more about the sexual violence that many face around the world

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