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

Don’t miss out on MORE great articles like this one. Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter!

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.

Post new comment

Click to add a comment