A quarter of men in Asia-Pacific admit rape

A UN survey of 10,000 men in Asia-Pacific reveals high levels of sexual violence in the region, and asks why rape is so common.

Almost a quarter of men across South East Asia and the Pacific admit to having raped a woman in their lifetime, while almost half reported having carried out physical or sexual violence against an intimate partner, a UN survey of 10,000 men across the region has found.

The incidence of both crimes varied across the six countries surveyed – Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea – but was higher in the latter. In Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, 80 per cent of men reported using sexual or physical violence against a partner, and 62 per cent said they had raped a woman or girl in their lifetime.

Across the region, 72-97 per cent of men who committed rape experienced no legal consequences, with this figure even higher for marital rape, which is not criminalised in many countries.

As well as exposing the high incidence of gender based violence across the region, by speaking to men the survey aimed to ask an under-explored question – why do men carry out these crimes? Unsurprisingly, there is no one simple answer.

70-80 per cent of male rapists said their main motivation was a sense of ‘sexual entitlement’. Around half said they did so for entertainment, and anger, punishment and finally alcohol consumption were also reported as motivations.

Men’s own experience of violence also seems to be an important factor in their future behaviour. Rates of reported emotional abuse in childhood ranged from 50 per cent in Sri Lanka to 86 per cent in Papua New Guinea, according to the survey, while six per cent of respondents in rural Indonesia and 37 per cent of men in Bangladesh had experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18.

Adults who experienced abuse as children were also found to have higher rates of depression, poorer health and were more likely to join gangs, be involved in fights and abuse drugs or alcohol. Men who were violent against women were also more likely to have had a large number of sexual partners and to have paid for sex.

The survey made clear that the different factors explaining sexual violence against women were inter-linked, and that they varied from country to country, so there can be no one-size-fits-all response. One of the report’s authors, Emma Fulu, a research specialist for Partners for Prevention, a regional UN programme on gender based violence, says she hopes the report’s findings will nevertheless help shape future initiatives to tackle violence against women.

“We hope to see this new knowledge used for more informed programmes and policies to end violence against women. Given the early age of violence perpetration we found among some men, we need to start working with younger boys and girls than we have in the past. We also need laws and policies that clearly express that violence against women is never acceptable, as well as policies and programmes to protect children and end the cycles of violence that extend across many people’s lives,” she says.

South East Asia was chosen for the survey because of the high rates of violence against women, but the method of exploring men’s attitudes towards violence could also be illuminating in other regions, not least in the UK where the government estimates that between 60,000-95,000 people experience rape each year, but just under 3,000 are convicted of rape annually.
 

Children in Papua New Guinea, where 62 per cent of men admitted to rape. Photo: Getty

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder