The Global Rape Epidemic - Equality Now

The Global Rape Epidemic

We hope that this global report will open up a conversation to bring addressing sexual violence into the very centre of our collective thinking and action and to promote the right of women and girls everywhere to equality and to be free from violence.

The World's Shame: The Global Rape Epidemic

Around the world, rape and sexual abuse are everyday violent occurrences -- affecting close to a billion women and girls over their lifetimes. However, despite the pervasiveness of these crimes, laws are insufficient, inconsistent, not systematically enforced and, sometimes, promote violence. Since Equality Now’s founding in 1992, we have worked with survivors of rape and sexual assault to help them get justice and to push for measures to bring an end to this unacceptable crime. The report looks at how laws around the world are still failing to protect women and girls from sexual violence.

Download our report as SINGLE PAGES or HORIZONTAL SPREADS.

“By rape, the victim is treated as a mere object of sexual gratification …without regard for the personal autonomy and control over what happens to his or her body…rape is one of the most repugnant affronts to human dignity and the range of dignity-related rights, such as security of the person and integrity of the person…”

African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights: Communication 341/2007 – "Equality Now v Federal Republic of Ethiopia"

By any measure, gender-based violence, including sexual violence, is being inflicted on women and girls in epidemic proportions. If it were a medical disease, sexual violence would have serious attention and the funding to address it, from governments and independent donors alike. Everyone reading this report is likely to have either survived or to know someone who has experienced, some form of sexual violence.

An analysis of surveys on laws on rape and sexual assault from 82 jurisdictions

The findings and analysis in this report are a reflection of information and trends emerging from our review of surveys on sexual violence laws submitted by members of the legal profession in 82 jurisdictions-including within 73 UN member states around the world. Information for this report was collected over a period of several months from late 2014 to late 2015 and changes may have been made to laws subsequently. We have included case studies from our work to illustrate the impact of discriminatory rape laws or weak enforcement of good laws. The report does not purport to be a definitive representation of the law in any country. Instead, it provides a general picture of laws on sexual violence in the countries surveyed and highlight obstacles to justice for survivors of sexual violence. The findings illustrate that governments still have a long way to go to transform their laws, policies, and practices into instruments to

  • prevent sexual violence,
  • provide better access to justice for victims (including specialized services), and
  • effectively punish sexual violence crimes.

This report positions the information received from our surveys against these UN Women benchmarks. We identified seven gaps in rape and sexual assault laws:


Download the seven gaps in laws on rape and sexual assault.


Rape is a global epidemic and laws are failing women and girls. Call on governments and policymakers to fix laws on sexual violence and to ensure justice for survivors of sexual violence. Add your voice to our latest campaigns.

Globally, governments have committed and recommitted to ending all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence. In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“Agenda 2030”).
This includes to: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” (Goal 5), “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres"" (Target 5.2), and “[e]nsure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices….” (Target 10.3)."