Rape In Southeast Asia

(Trigger warning for descriptions and depictions of sexual assault)

Thanks to a long-term study conducted by the UN, we now have some numbers on the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in southeast Asia. On average, one in four men included in the study (of over 10,000 total men) admitted to raping at some point in their lives.

One of the key aspects of this study was that researchers did not intentionally use the word for “rape” in their questions. The questions instead described forcible sex acts. Additionally, the researchers distinguished between forcing sex with intimate partners and with strangers, and found that rape between married partners was more prevalent than between those not involved in a relationship.

The researchers conclude that “Interventions must focus on childhood and adolescence, and address culturally rooted male gender socialization and power relations, abuse in childhood, and poverty.” Rape, it seems, is much like other social ills, and could in theory be minimized or prevented if different models of gender and sexuality were promoted instead of the idea that, for instance, men have the right to access and own women’s bodies.

It is illuminating to view these images from India alongside the study’s results. This campaign against domestic violence depicts Hindu goddesses as battered women, forcing viewers to confront the reality of abuse and assault in their own communities.

The discrepancy between powerful female deities and women’s lived experiences in a culture is an intriguing one. I recommend The Faces of the Goddess to readers who are curious about the fit – or lack thereof – between a culture’s religion and its treatment of women.

I’ve written before about rape culture and the daily reality of sexual assault in India and I have to wonder: will simply bringing attention to these facts help change them? Or, as the authors of the above study suggest, will we need an entire social overhaul to address the roots of sexism and assault?

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.