LONDON — About one in four men in parts of Asia admitted raping a woman, according to the first large studies of rape and sexual violence. About one in 10 admitted raping a woman who was not their partner.
International researchers said their startling finding should change perceptions about how common violence against women is and prompt major campaigns to prevent it. The results were based on a survey of six Asian countries and the authors said it was uncertain what rates were like elsewhere. They said ingrained sexist attitudes contributed, but other factors like poverty or having been emotionally and physically abused were major risk factors for violent behavior.
A report from the World Health Organization found one-third of women worldwide say they have been victims of domestic or sexual violence.
“It’s clear violence against women is far more widespread in the general population than we thought,” said Rachel
Jewkes of South Africa’s Medical Research Council, who led the two studies. The papers were published online in the journal, Lancet Global Health.
In the new research, male interviewers surveyed more than 10,000 men in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea. The word rape was not used in the questions. Men were asked if they’d forced a woman to have sex when she was not willing or if they had forced sex on someone too drunk or drugged to consent.
In most places, scientists concluded that 6 to 8 percent of men raped a woman not their partner. With wives and girlfriends included, the figures were mostly between 30 to 57 percent. The lowest rates were in Bangladesh and Indonesia and the highest rates were in Papa New Guinea.
Of those who acknowledged forcing a woman to have sex, more than 70 percent of men said it was because of ‘‘sexual entitlement.’’ Nearly 60 percent said they were bored or wanted to have fun while about 40 percent said it was because they were angry or wanted to punish the woman. Only about half of the men said they felt guilty.
“The problem is shocking but anyplace we have looked, we see partner violence, victimization, and sexual violence,” said Michele Decker, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who co-wrote an accompanying commentary. “Rape doesn’t just involve someone with a gun to a woman’s head,” she said. “People tend to think of rape as something someone else would do.”