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 rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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