A study published in Lancet medical journal found that 16 per cent of women, over the age of fifteen, from Australia and New Zealand experienced sexual violence from strangers. In fact, Australia and New Zealand had been found to have the highest rates of reported sexual violence compared to 56 countries in the world. In Australia alone, one in six women has been victims of random sexual violence.
Naeemah Abrahams, who led the study, said that gender inequality in both countries is the main culprit why men use violence against women.
''Sexual violence is also more common where such behaviour is sanctioned by the society and where policies and interventions have not been put in place to prevent the violence and support the women who are abused,'' Ms Abrahams said.
On a worldwide scale, the study found that one woman in 14 had experienced being sexually abused by a stranger. The figure was a clear indication that sex attacks on women are a big and widely overlooked problem. Overall, 7.2 per cent of women aged 15 years or older admitted being sexually attacked at least once in their lives by random strangers.
"Our findings indicate a pressing health and human rights concern," according to the study.
To conduct the study, they compile sexual harassment reports from "grey" literature or reports and publications that may not be peer-reviewed.
Sub-Saharan Africa - 21 per cent in the centre (Democratic Republic of Congo) and 17.4 per cent in the south (Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe) - followed by 16.4 per cent in Australia and New Zealand, showed the highest rates of sexual abuse.
There were lower rates in South Asia (India and Bangladesh) at 3.3 per cent and north Africa and the Middle East with 4.5 per cent.
The lowest reported incidents was within Europe, three countries in the east (Lithuania, Ukraine, Azerbaijan) had a lower level of sexual assault (6.9 percent) than countries in the centre (10.7 percent) and west of the continent (11.5 percent). The figure for North America was 13 per cent.
"We found that sexual violence is a common experience for women worldwide and in some regions is endemic, reaching more than 15 percent in four regions," Ms Abrahams added.
The study, however, pointed out that the difference in rates among regions can also be affected by the number of victims who came out and disclosed their experiences. The study said that the difference in culture played an important part wether the victims were willing to share or not.
To contact the editor, e-mail: