Sexual harassment is much worse in the Third World

Amid all the brouhaha about sexual harassment in the United States, don’t forget that it’s much, much worse in the Third World.  A recent article in the Los Angeles Times, about women in Lesotho (where I lived for most of a year), highlights the problem.

The epidemic of sexual violence against women in Lesotho, a nation of 2.2 million people, is arguably the worst in the world. But it is rarely reported.

I spent three weeks in the country, dodging unwanted advances and hearing stories of frequent, unpunished sexual assaults. It was the most threatening environment for women that I had ever navigated. If somehow you still don’t recognize the sweeping scale of sexual assault, if you think women across the world don’t need to fight for each other with everything we have, try visiting Lesotho, where holding a man accountable for sexual violence is almost impossible.

. . .

The epidemic of sexual violence against women in this nation of 2.2 million people is arguably the worst in the world, but it is rarely reported. The problem, women’s rights advocates say, begins in childhood. Girls are taught to be compliant, to quietly endure suffering and to serve men.

The director of a local aid organization told me grown men regularly flirt with her 8-year-old daughter in the grocery store, capitalizing early on a grossly unequal power dynamic. UNICEF found that 19% of girls under 18 in Lesotho are forced into (illegal) marriages, oftentimes with older men. The rate of new HIV infections is the highest in the world (one in four people have the disease) thanks in no small part to a virtual army of Harvey Weinsteins preying on economically disadvantaged young women.

In response to questionnaires circulated by Catholic Relief Services in Lesotho, women have reported that in school, teachers request sex from female students in return for passing grades. At garment factories, security guards require women seeking jobs to have sex before entering the building. Inside, bosses want sex in exchange for hiring women and offering them overtime (which women need to obtain food for children they raise alone because the fathers are often out committing sexual abuse). Marriage offers little protection, as husbands feel free to demand sex at home whenever they please.

Women rarely discuss or report any of these encounters. The subject of sex is taboo, and aggressors are unlikely to face consequences. Women who do report sexual abuse risk retaliation.

Police are routinely the culprits and even those who are not may be nonchalant about sex crimes. Cases are delayed or dismissed with petty excuses. One aid worker told me police failed to prosecute the rape of a 5-year-old girl because the perpetrator said he was sorry.

There’s more at the link.

I’m here to tell you, that article is largely accurate.  I saw it during the several months that I lived in Lesotho, and from what I hear, things have gotten worse since then.  Add to that the ghastly prevalence of child rape, due to the so-called ‘virgin cleansing myth‘, and you have a recipe for nightmares.

In talks to school classes in various parts of the USA, in the twenty-odd years that I’ve lived here, I routinely tell girls that they should thank God they live here, rather than in the Third World.  I describe to them what life can be (and all too often is) like for women there.  Almost uniformly, they don’t believe me.  They think I’m making it up, or trying to scare them.  That’s why I keep articles such as this on file, to persuade them that the rest of the world is nothing like America.  However, some of them still won’t believe me.

If they and their ilk go to the Third World, all too often they learn the hard way that I wasn’t joking.




  1. Hey Peter;

    The sad thing is that many of these women denigrate or put down the Western society that protects them and gives them options. I have been on other places on the planet where life is cheap and if you are female, even cheaper.
    You are spot on with the "us vs them" attitude, it is tribal and when I try to explain that to people, they discount what I say because I am "privileged."

  2. I got to travel to a fairly large variety of 2 and 3rd world countries on Uncle Sam's dime.

    I know for me at least it is hard to describe to someone who has never seen it how different and in some cases cheap life was/is in some of them.

  3. Juries attempt to figure out what was in a defendant's head, their values and motivations, by examining their behavior.

    The handgun became practical over 100 years ago. Holding a man accountable for sexual violence is simple, just shoot him in the act. And then shoot his allies who appear, and keep shooting men until no men will raise a hand against you.

    Prior to the handgun a woman could always club a husband in the head with a frying pan while he slept, and a pottery pot before cast iron, and a stick or rock before that. Why don't fans of democracy, or womens' rights, actually take it seriously? Whine whine whine women demand men protect them.

    This behavior in the third world is not sexual harassment. These women are not victims, any more than the German Jews were. These women prefer to accept these actions instead of rejecting them. I conclude they are submissive. They have a morality problem, and it is transmitted by culture rather than genes.

  4. Since the beginning of time if a man can take something and keep it it was his.
    The world is still a cruel place, we live in a society that goes to great lengths to protect us from that fact.

  5. My wife was sexually assaulted in college by a male student who turned out to be "the campus rapist." But she was (still is) a bit stronger, tougher and much better trained (at that point, in real Martial Arts, not fighting sport) than a lot of women, and she fought back. Without going into details, he ended up in hospital for about three weeks. Some friends wanted to go throw him out the hospital window from his upper story room, but she convinced them that would only get them in trouble. But even she is a big fan of concealed carry, being a big believer in "God made men and women equal, and Smith & Wesson ensures that fact."

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