Everyone has heard or read statements in local media or internet forums that “India is the rape capital of the world” or “India ranked world’s most dangerous country for women“, well none of such derived conclusions are true. Just like other countries, India is not safe for women, but it’s definitely not the rape capital of the world.
To reach this conclusion, we have used the concept of “Rape Rate” in our analysis. Rape Rate is nothing but the number of rapes reported per 100,000 people in a particular region. This concept is useful in comparing crime in different countries with different populations as we cannot compare apples to oranges. India’s population is nearly 4 times more than the US and thus, the number of crimes will be more in India even if sociocultural factors in the two countries that result in the crime would have been the same.
Definitions of Rape
Let us have a quick overview of what rapes are considered to be in both countries.
In India, the definition of rape was expanded in 2013 after the Nirbhaya incident:
” 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, the FBI has reported crime statistics using the legacy definition of rape and also, by using a newer definition of rape which was given in 2013. From 2013 onwards, rape is defined by the FBI 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
As the newer definition of rape in the USA is very similar to the definition of rape in India, we can use the official statistics of both countries to calculate and compare the rape rate of the two.
We did our analysis using the projected populations of India and the USA in 2016 (UN – World Population Prospects) and the number of rapes reported officially in India and the USA by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) respectively in 2016.
(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.
Under-reporting of Rape
One might argue that the rapes are more under-reported in India than in the USA. 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 rape is an issue that no-one talks about and is hardly reported in India or the USA. As per the NFHS survey (2015-16), in India, around 5.4% of women have been raped by their husbands and in the USA 14% of married women have been sexually assaulted by their spouses.
The best way would be to look at surveys under-taken in respective countries which estimate the number of women who have been sexually assaulted in the entire population. The surveys used are the 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 assume 6% as the approximate number of women in all age groups in India as victims of the crime. According to NISVS (2010-12), around 1 in 3 women in the USA have been victims of rape in their lifetime which is equivalent to 33%.
Comparing the above-mentioned figures with the reported stats, we will realize that the under-reporting of rape takes place in both countries in huge proportions. And with the stats reported in the NHFS and NISVS surveys, the rape rate of the USA will still be higher than the rape rate in India by around 5 times (33% of women are victims in the US vs 6% in India).