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EU poll says 27 percent find rape justified, sometimes

Manasi Gopalakrishnan
December 2, 2016

A new study has shown that more than a quarter of Europeans believe there are justifications for rape, including drinking alcohol and style of dress.

Symbolbild Missbrauch Opfer
Image: Fotolia/DW
Symbolbild Missbrauch Opfer
Image: Fotolia/DW

More than a quarter of Europeans said rape can be justified in certain situations, according to a Europe-wide study on gender-based violence conducted by the European Union.

The poll also found that 74 percent of the study's 27,818 respondents said domestic violence against women is common in their country, with national averages ranging from a low of 50 percent in Bulgaria to 93 percent in Portugal.

Some 30 percent of respondents said domestic violence against men is common with national statistics ranging from 8 percent in Bulgaria to 61 percent in the UK.

When it comes to sexual harassment, 70 percent of those polled said they think harassment of women is common in their country, with the percentages varying from 89 percent in Italy to 32 percent in Estonia.

Although both men and women are subjected to gender-based violence, women make up the majority of those affected by it, the study said. At least one in three women in the EU had experienced "physical and/or sexual violence" since the age of 15, while one in 10 had experienced sexual harassment or stalking through "new technologies," it added.

'Justifying' rape

According to the study, 27 percent of EU citizens - more than one in four - polled said there were instances in which "sexual intercourse without consent can be justifiable." Such so-called justifications included being drunk or on drugs, voluntarily going home with someone, wearing provocative or sexy clothes or not clearly saying no or not fighting back.

Infografik Sex ohne Einverständnis EU Englisch

"I am a little bit taken aback," Kanchana Lanzet, an expert on women's affairs and former vice president of UN Women's national committee in Germany, told DW. "That's because people have access to information in this part of the world. Western Europe stands for certain standards of living and protection of rights. So when we hear that every fourth European thinks rape is okay, then something is wrong somewhere. "

Some 55 percent of Romanians agreed that sexual intercourse without consent could be justified under some circumstances. That was a view shared by 27 percent of German, 28 percent of Italian and 31 percent of French respondents.

Although the study uses the phrase "sexual intercourse without consent," Lanzet said the expression is nothing more than "fine-sounding phrase for the word 'rape.'"

"I prefer to call rape rape, because it involves more than a woman saying just yes or no. It involves force, it is against her will and often it comes with violence - like beating up and pinning down" she told DW.

Had the survey used the word "rape" rather than "sexual intercourse without consent," participants would have "without a doubt" answered differently, Lanzet added.

"The word rape has a strong emotional factor…Sexual intercourse without consent is antiseptic and sterile," she said. "It lacks the emotional component and does not say anything about the gravity of the situation."

Differing attitudes

The EU average of 27 percent finding a justification for "sexual intercourse without consent" is not very surprising, considering the differences between attitudes among EU nations, according to Lanzet.

In eastern European countries, she said, sex is not openly spoken about - societies there have a closed way of looking at women. "It's like in many other parts of the world with an outlook which says, well, if women dress in a way that excites men then they are asking for [rape]."

According to women's affairs expert Lanzet, having sex without a woman's consent after she has been drugged is an even bigger crime, because she is unable to ask for help
According to women's affairs expert Lanzet, having sex without a woman's consent after she has been drugged is an even bigger crime, because she is unable to ask for helpImage: Fotolia/Miriam Dörr

The study said there is widespread agreement that domestic violence, sexual harassment and other acts of gender-based violence are unacceptable or wrong, and that a majority of the people think that gender-based violence is unacceptable.

But how effective can this study be in tackling gender-based violence? "It's not that studies are not helpful, it's about what one does with these studies," Lanzet says. "It's a question of how the findings are implemented within each country...and this has to be followed up by raising awareness."

Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Manasi Gopalakrishnan Journalist and editor from India, compulsive reader of books.
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