DAKAR, Senegal — The central African nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been called the worst place on earth to be a woman. A study released yesterday by the American Journal of Public Health shows it is even worse than previously thought: 1,152 women are raped every day, a rate equal to 48 per hour.
That rate is equal to 420,480 rapes per year, 26 times more than the previous estimate of 16,000 rapes in a year reported by the United Nations.
Michelle Hindin, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in gender-based violence, said the rate could be even higher. The source of the data, she noted, is a survey that was conducted through face-to-face interviews, and people are not always forthcoming about the violence they have suffered when talking to strangers.
Congo — a nation of 70 million people that is equal in size to Western Europe — has been plagued by decades of war. Its vast forests are rife with militias that have systematically used rape to destroy communities.
The study found that 29 Congolese women out of 1,000 were raped. Even in the parts of Congo least affected by the war, a woman is 58 times more likely to be raped than a woman in the United States, where the annual rate is 0.5 per 1,000 women.
“The message is important and clear: Rape in [Congo] has metastasized amid a climate of impunity and has emerged as one of the great human crises of our time,’’ said Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.