A Time To Learn: The Necessity for a Discussion about Rape (updated)

Posted: December 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

(update I-Congo incidents-,  II, III, and IV – new Haiti reports- below)

With all of the focus on the case of Julian Assange, and the Swedish request by the authorities for him to return to that country for questioning,  one thing has become readily and obviously apparent:  It is time we confront the horror of the crime of Rape, and rethink how the individuals who become entangled with this violation must horrifically face their experience of this violence alone, the undercurrent of  the silencing shame of the community, and the gross indifference of the institutions of authority.

With Sweden the focus of how out of touch the Social engagement is towards this offense it is absolutely necessary that we now tackle this issue of terror and violence. As Katrin Axelsson, from the women against rape group, writes about this global crisis (though I don’t come to the conclusions which she and others do in regard to these facts):

“Sweden does’t fare better than we do in Britain when it comes to rape. Though Sweden has the highest per capita number of reported rapes in Europe and these have quadrupled in the last 20 years, conviction rates have decreased. On 23 April 2010 Carina Hägg and Nalin Pekgul (respectively MP and chairwoman of Social Democratic Women in Sweden) wrote in the Göteborgs-Posten that “up to 90% of all reported rapes never get to court. In 2006 six people were convicted of rape though almost 4,000 people were reported”. They endorsed Amnesty International’s call for an independent inquiry to examine the rape cases that had been closed and the quality of the original investigations.”

Femdefense Design Apparatus


This means that of all of the cases of Rape reported in Sweden only a shockingly small 10% will make their way to court. With the highest number per capita of reported rape cases in Scandinavia and Europe, and with a quadrupling of reported cases in the last 20 years, the number of convictions which have been handed down has been drastically decreasing in the Swedish judicial system.

Amnesty International’s report, Case closed: Rape and human rights in the Nordic countries: Summary Report, details these disturbing facts about Sweden and Rape which Axelsson notes and which is sadly confirmed by Hägg and Pegul.

Rubens The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus (1618)

Yet this is more than a problem faced by Sweden alone.  It is absolutely necessary ( and hopefully the debate which is occurring now will precipitate this) to have a frank and open discussion about this issue and work towards a  means to rectify the terrible multitude of injustices which revolves around this crime.

Update I:

Doctors Without Borders has just released a report about its workers treating the victims of mass rape on New Year’s Day in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The group treated 33 women who were raped in a coordinated attack in the village of Fizi, South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo on New Year’s Day, Doctors Without Borders said Thursday.“Women had been restrained with ropes or beaten unconscious with the butt of a gun before being attacked, some in front of their children,” reported Annemarie Loof, an official with the agency. “Up to four armed men were involved at a time and homes and shops were looted.”

Rape is a frequent weapon of war in Congo, the United Nations says, and it has named Democratic Republic of Congo the “rape capital of the world,” with 15,000 women raped in eastern Congo in 2009. The Rape/assaults took place occurred in parts of the country where rebel groups considered the populace to be decidedly pro-government.

Rape is a weapon of war and terror and is used often in the Congo conflict for just this end according to the UN. Statistically 15,000 women were raped in the eastern portion of the country in 2009. To add to the terror and violence of the act, the UN notes that the vitims relatives and neighbors are often forced to be witness to the atrocity.

As Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières,  reports:

The women were raped on the night of 1st January in Fizi town and surroundings in a coordinated attack. MSF medical teams treated 14 women at the hospital in Fizi on 3rd January, and 19 the next day. In addition, two severely wounded people were transferred to Baraka Hospital, one with serious head injuries after being beaten with a rock, the other having been shot in the chest.

“Women had been restrained with ropes or beaten unconscious with the butt of a gun before being attacked, some in front of their children.” said Annemarie Loof, MSF head of mission in South Kivu. “Up to four armed men were involved at a time and homes and shops were looted.”

MSF provides specialized medical care to women and girls who have been raped, including post-exposure prophylaxis, which protects against the HIV virus and other sexually” transmitted infections. Many women are afraid to seek treatment because of fear of being stigmatized by their families, or the risk of further harassment by armed groups.

“MSF is extremely concerned about the current situation in and around Fizi. People are fleeing the area fearing further violent attacks” said Loof.

In 2009 alone, MSF provided medical and psychosocial care for 5,600 rape victims in North and South Kivu.”

Further information here.

Congo: Rape as a tool of war

Update II:

Per Maaretta’s comments here is the listing of rapes per capita (for every 1,000 people) for the highest number of rapes . Something is definitely wrong!

# 1   South Africa: 1.19538 per 1,000 people

# 2   Seychelles: 0.788294 per 1,000 people

# 3   Australia: 0.777999 per 1,000 people

# 4   Montserrat: 0.749384 per 1,000 people

# 5   Canada: 0.733089 per 1,000 people

# 6   Jamaica: 0.476608 per 1,000 people

# 7   Zimbabwe: 0.457775 per 1,000 people

# 8   Dominica: 0.34768 per 1,000 people

# 9   United States: 0.301318 per 1,000 people

# 10   Iceland: 0.246009 per 1,000 people

# 11   Papua New Guinea: 0.233544 per 1,000 people

# 12   New Zealand: 0.213383 per 1,000 people

# 13   United Kingdom: 0.142172 per 1,000 people

# 14   Spain: 0.140403 per 1,000 people

# 15   France: 0.139442 per 1,000 people

# 16   Korea, South: 0.12621 per 1,000 people

# 17   Mexico: 0.122981 per 1,000 people

# 18   Norway: 0.120836 per 1,000 people

# 19   Costa Rica: 0.118277 per 1,000 people

# 20   Venezuela: 0.115507 per 1,000 people

# 21   Finland: 0.110856 per 1,000 people

# 22   Netherlands: 0.100445 per 1,000 people

# 23   Denmark: 0.0914948 per 1,000 people

# 24   Germany: 0.0909731 per 1,000 people

# 25   Bulgaria: 0.0795973 per 1,000 people

# 26   Chile: 0.0782179 per 1,000 people

# 27   Thailand: 0.0626305 per 1,000 people

# 28   Kyrgyzstan: 0.0623785 per 1,000 people

# 29   Poland: 0.062218 per 1,000 people

# 30   Sri Lanka: 0.0599053 per 1,000 people

# 31   Hungary: 0.0588588 per 1,000 people

# 32   Estonia: 0.0547637 per 1,000 people

# 33   Ireland: 0.0542829 per 1,000 people

# 34   Switzerland: 0.0539458 per 1,000 people

# 35   Belarus: 0.0514563 per 1,000 people

Update III:

The UN Secretary-General has emphasised that the elimination of violence against women remains one of the most serious challenges of our times. Rape, as a crime that principally affects women and its prevalence in all states, cultures and contexts, whether in an armed conflict or peacetime, represents a prime example of this challenge. Sexual violence committed in armed conflicts has been termed “history’s greatest silence” by the UN and its eradication is considered to be a central issue and a “top priority” in the work of the organisation. Part of the task has lain in ending the “greatest silence” – that is, to systematically address and condemn sexual violence. The work involves exposing such myths as rape being an inevitable byproduct of war or anexpression of local cultural traditions, rather than e.g. as a war crime or asdiscrimination on the basis of sex. Rape in war is frequently understood to be an“intractable cultural trait” and outside of that context as a “private matter” perpetrated by lone, sexual deviants. Such fictions serve to minimise the gravity of the crime and fail to acknowledge its pervasive nature. Another part of the challenge is to, beyond solely addressing the widespread occurrence of rape, take measures to eradicate the practice. Rape in all contexts has largely been characterised by a culture of impunity and it is maintained that changing a culture of impunity requires the reformation of national laws to recognise such acts as crimes.”

Maria Eriksson evaluates the definition of rape in an international context.   Entire text (pdf),  Maria Eriksson (2010): Defining Rape: Emerging Obligations for States under International Law?, Örebro Studies in Law 2, 695 pp.

Update IV:

Information about the current crisis of rape and sexual assault in Haiti (Amnesty International report) and India (Eve Teasing) check out this link : Cries in a Soundproof Room : Two Studies of Sexual Assault in Haiti and India


  1. maaretta says:

    Shocking that a country like Sweden, which has had the goal of equal rights between the sexes on their agenda for years, has not only a high rate on rapes committed per year, but so rarely takes the reported rapes seriously. Very disturbing.
    Rape is unfortunately a common crime committed towards women. For instance, a new study in South Africa shows that over one in three men admit to committing rape. Feministing reported about it. Read about it here: http://feministing.com/2010/11/29/new-study-over-one-in-three-men-in-south-africa-admit-to-rape/.

    Also, raped women are not always fortunate enough to be treated well by local authorities or governments in general. Since 2008, Nicaragua has made it illegal for rape/incest victims to get an abortion (so they basically have to carry their rapist’s child). They are also not given any psychological help to be able to recover from the traumatic experience. Raped women are basically invisible in Nicaragua.

    Clearly the whole world in general has to begin to change it’s attitude towards Rape victims and stop it’s too often normalization of Rape.

    • hapstance says:

      Thanks maaretta for the further info, and understanding this is just what I am calling for.

      Is there a similar study of women in South Africa who say they have been raped?

      Also, given this high number of South African of Men saying they have done this crime, do we infer that it is generally considered OK by men to rape? Does it prove something about thier masculinity?

      One thinks of Zuma and his own rape trial (found innocent) and how the “justification” was how she was sitting and how his own “cultural norms” meant he “had to do it”.

      • maaretta says:

        I don’t think there’s as much of a clear statistics of Women in South Africa. But my guess would be yes.
        Also, about whether it is seen to be ok to Rape in South African culture because it proves your a “real man”, I would have to say yes and no. I think their is a tradition that a man is super-masculine if he sleeps with lots of women, even if he forces some of them, in South Africa as countless other nations. The woman’s say in such matters is not counted or seen as important. So even if you say you’ve forced a woman to do sexual things with you, it is a form of proving your masculinity since you’ve had intercourse all the same, consensual or non. But I don’t think the high amount of Rape in South Africa is only the cultures fault, I think it has also to due with poverty, lack of education and bitterness (due to there recent history). I think many of these men would never have attacked a woman unless they didn’t happen to be stuck in poverty, feeling oppressed and wronged. To them committing rape is a form of “getting back” at someone, but in a totally misguided and awful way.
        Zuma, however, I believe is just a slimy scumbag who has no respect for women as well as his Zulu tribe. That he first commits an unspeakable crime and uses his culture shamelessly like that to get away with it shows lack of respect for anyone.

  2. […] Further Background information on Sexual Assault (other countries and statistics), check here.  And for Jasmeen Patheja and Blank Noise, Moments of a Long Pause (video) questions and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s