Sexual harassment: How it stands around the globe
Updated 6:51 PM ET, Wed November 29, 2017
(CNN)Any woman, in any country, will most likely be able to relate to this situation:
Walking down the street, alone, past a group of guys hanging out with nowhere to go. Her guard goes up, and preparation takes place. Many things could happen when she passes them.
It may be the words "hey, beautiful" or "hey, sexy," or being instructed to smile. It may be more intentional: standing in the way or blocking the path in hope of some interaction. It may get more aggressive, with hands reaching to inappropriate places.
The spectrum is far and wide, with one end harboring the potential for things to become more violent with physical abuse or rape.
"Rape is an extreme consequence of sexual harassment," said Rachel Jewkes, director of the What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls global program. But there are a "myriad of behaviors," she said.
The fact is that sexual harassment is part and parcel of daily life, particularly in public places, Jewkes believes. "It's used to curtail a woman's freedom."
In the streets of London, Mumbai, Washington or Lagos, the recent outpouring of stories from women using #MeToo and its many iterations has showed the uniformity of the problem -- irrespective of country and culture.
In 2017, the world has made one thing clear: Sexual harassment is everywhere.
When quantifying the problem on a global level, minimal levels of reporting and data limit what experts can provide to help prove -- and solve -- the problem. Based on what is available, here's how the numbers look globally.
"There is massive male sexual entitlement ... especially in south Asia," said Jewkes, who is now based in South Africa but researched male violence in Asia and the Pacific.
"Public spaces are run by men. They perceive an ownership of all public places," she said, adding that social norms enable men to feel this way and, in turn, harass women.
When the streets are unsafe, it provides an excuse to keep women and young girls at home or take them out of school, Jewkes added.
The gang rape of a young female student on a bus in New Delhi, India, in 2012 brought attention to the issue across that country. Research by international charity ActionAid in 2016 found that 44% of women surveyed in India had been groped in public.
Data from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, reveal that almost four in 10 women have experienced sexual or physical violence from a partner in their lifetime.
Numbers are similar in neighboring Bangladesh, where 84% of women in an Actionaid survey had experienced derogatory comments or sexual advances in public. More than half said they had been harassed by people operating public transportation. And more than half of women are estimated to have experienced physical or sexual abuse by a partner, according to UN Women.
In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, "gender inequality is so marked," Jewkes said. The problem of entitlement is firmly articulated by society, she believes.
Jewkes highlights Bangladesh as an unusual example of where women who work are more likely to be abused by their husbands than women who don't work. Many Bangladeshi women work in garment factories, where managers and business partners can often expect women to be available to them.
With this comes tensions in marital relationships. "It's recognized as a problem, but it's deeply shameful," Jewkes said, leaving husbands to then fear their wives working.
To the east of the continent, in Cambodia and Vietnam, for example, the problem continues with more than three in four women experiencing harassment and sexual remarks, according to Actionaid reports. More than 40% of women reported feeling unsafe in places where many young men gather.
Middle East and North Africa
One region where the #MeToo campaign has been somewhat quieter is the Arab world. Experts believe that the burden of harassment and abuse there is as rife as in any other region but that the voices heard are few and far between.
"There are so many reasons behind this silence," said Lina Abirafeh, director of the Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World, in Lebanon. "I've heard trickles ... (but) people are scared."
She highlighted the stigma and shame associated with speaking out about experiences with sexual harassment or assault.
Though shame and stigma could be argued to be universal, Abirafeh says it's particularly an issue in the Arab world, where women risk losing their jobs and family by coming forward. Some families may even kill their daughters if they are no longer virgins, she added.
"Patriarchy is still very strong here," she said. "There's entitlement and a feeling of 'we've always done this' and that sexual harassment is not wrong."
One group at significant risk is migrant and domestic workers, who have no voice, said Abirafeh. "There's a minuscule chance of justice if they report violence," she said.
In Egypt, a 2013 report by UN Women found that 99% of women surveyed across seven regions in the country had experienced some form of sexual harassment. A report by Harassmap -- a company whose app aims to allow women to highlight unsafe regions of the capital, Cairo -- found that more than 95% of women sampled in the city had been harassed.
Abirafeh added that the reasons for high levels of harassment and violence against women across the 22 Arab states "are diverse." Some countries actively practice female genital mutilation, and others are in conflict, during which reports show women are often victims of sexual violence or rape.
Child marriage is common in some countries, such as Somalia and Yemen, according to the Population Reference Bureau, and only recently have countries such as Jordan repealed legal loopholes that enabled rapists to walk free if they married their victims. Lebanon announced plans in 2016 to end its law, but eight other Arab states still have laws that let rapists off the hook on condition that they marry their victims, according to Human Rights Watch.
"We're not doing very well in the region overall," Abirafeh said. "It's all about power and control."
West and sub-Saharan Africa
Harassment affects millions of women across Africa, but in this region, sexual violence is more common.
More than 50% of women in Tanzania reported violence by their husbands or partners in a recent World Health Organization report, and that figure rose to 71% in Ethiopia.
In Nigeria, child marriage rates are more than 43%, according to UN Women, and six out of 10 children under 18 have experienced some form of physical, emotional and sexual violence, according to the National Population Commission in Nigeria.
In South Africa, just 12% of women feel safe from verbal or physical abuse in their own neighborhoods, and 80% surveyed had experienced some form of abuse in the past year, according to a 2015 ActionAid report.
"There is a great deal of sexual harassment, but it doesn't constrain a woman's movements in the same way" as in Asia, Jewkes said. "It's not an honor-based culture or about the chastity of a female by family members."
In southern Africa, violence against women is high. "There is a much higher threat of rape" compared with other regions, she said. "A lot of women are raped."
According to the South African organization Rape Crisis, more than 53,000 rapes were reported to the South African Police Services in 2014 and '15, translating to nearly 150 per day. Worse still, it adds, many cases go unreported. "It's a well-recognized African problem," Jewkes said.