Equality Now is a global legal advocacy organization that is dedicated to promoting women’s rights around the world. It recently released a report called “The World’s Shame: The Global Rape Epidemic,” which summarizes the gaps in legal protection for women and girls from sexual violence in 82 countries.
The report is extremely well-presented, with clear summaries of the legal and other issues, statistics, several (heartbreaking) case studies, pictures and graphics. It categorizes the gaps in the relevant laws into seven broad groups, such as laws that allow the perpetrator to walk free by “settling” the dispute (including by marrying the victim), laws that fail to appropriately evaluate whether true consent was possible in the circumstances (e.g., victim was underaged, mentally impaired, or excessively intoxicated), and laws that do not protect women and girls against marital rape. Some countries have laws that punish free and consensual sexual relations – in such settings, women may be particularly reluctant to report rape out of fear of the consequences if they are unable prove their cases.
This graphic summarizes the seven types of “gaps” that are addressed in the study.
For another telling graphic, take a look at this map – categorizing countries in terms of their marital rape laws – in a Foreign Policy piece on the Equality Now report. It will shock you to see the number of countries that do not explicitly criminalize marital rape (and some explicitly decriminalize it).
The report cites several recent figures on representation of women around the world in justice systems, parliaments and in the media: women accounted for only 27% of judges, 26% of prosecutors, 9% of police officers, 22.7% of lawmakers, and 26% of management positions in media (these figures likely vary significantly by country). Thus, men, and not women, primarily make and enforce laws pertaining to sexual violence against women and girls. Similarly, men, and not women, shape and mobilize public opinion on these issues.
The report contains “Take Action” segments at the end of each section. You can also find ways to take action or donate to Equality Now by visiting its website.