Everyone has heard or read statements in local media or internet forums that India is the “India is the rape capital of the world…” and “India ranked world’s most dangerous country for women…“, well none of such derived conclusions that one reads in media or the internet forums are true. Truth is no country is “safe” for women on this planet but India is surely relatively safer for women than western countries if sexual assault is considered as a criterion.
To reach the conclusion we have used the concept of “Rape Rate” in our analysis. If you are not aware, Rape Rate is nothing but rapes reported per 100,000 people in a particular region. This concept is very useful in comparing crime in different countries with different populations as one cannot compare apples to watermelons!! India’s population is nearly 4 times more than the US and thus for obvious reasons, the absolute number of crime will be more in India even if there would have been no differences in sociocultural factors in the two countries that result in this horrible crime.
Definitions of Rape
As we will be using officially reported data for rapes, let us have a quick overview of what rapes are considered to be in both the countries.
In India, rape definition was expanded in 2013 after the Nirbhaya incident and the expanded definition is this :
” 375. A man is said to commit “rape” if he:–– (a) penetrates his penis, to any extent, into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or (b) inserts, to any extent, any object or a part of the body, not being the penis, into the vagina, the urethra or anus of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or (c) manipulates any part of the body of a woman so as to cause penetration into the vagina, urethra, anus or any part of body of such woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or (d) applies his mouth to the vagina, anus, urethra of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person………… ” – The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (Nirbhaya Act)
In the USA, FBI has reports crime statistics using the legacy definition of rape and as well as using a newer definition of rape. FBI started giving out statistics using the newer definition of rape only from the year 2013.
” Beginning in 2013, rape is defined for Summary UCR purposes as, “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The new definition updated the 80-year-old historical definition of rape which was “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” Effectively, the revised definition expands rape to include both male and female victims and offenders and reflects the various forms of sexual penetration understood to be rape, especially nonconsenting acts of sodomy, and sexual assaults with objects. ” – FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program Changes Definition of Rape
We did our analysis using the projected populations of India and USA in 2016 (UN – World Population Prospects) and rapes reported officially in India and USA by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) respectively in 2016.
Kindly note, that the newer definition of rape in the USA is very similar to what is considered as rape in India and thus we can use the official statistics of both to calculate and compare the rape rate between the two countries.
(Rapes reported per 100,000 people)
As one can clearly see in the above table that the Rape Rate in the USA is 13.9 times more than India.
Rapes are under-reported
One might argue that the rapes are under-reported in India than in the USA but the truth is that most rapes are never reported in both the countries. Estimates in India (NFHS surveys and NCRB comparison) and USA (OVC, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice) indicate that rapes reported are just 15% and 10% respectively of the actual number of incidents of rape.
Marital rapes are something that no-one talks and are hardly reported in India or USA. As per the NFHS survey (2015-16), around 5.4% of women have been raped by their husbands and in USA 14% of married women have been sexually assaulted by their spouse.
The best way would be to look at surveys under-taken in respective countries which estimate rapes. These surveys can be National Family Health Survey (2015-16) in India and The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS, 2010-12) in the USA. According to NFHS (2015-16) around 6% of Indian women aged 15-49 have been victims of rape at least once in their lifetime. As most of the rapes are reported in this age group in India, we can take 6% as the approximate number of women in all age groups in India have been victims of rape in their lifetime. According to NISVS (2010-12), 1 in 3 women in the USA have been victims of rape in their lifetime which is equivalent to 33%.
So, clearly, the under-reporting of rape takes place in both countries in huge proportions. Even if we include the above factors into consideration, the rape rate of USA will still be significantly higher than the rape rate in India.