Crime, the application of the rule of law and
the strength of the criminal justice system have
a profound impact not only on the victims of
crime and injustice but also on the economic
and social development of a society as a whole.
High crime rates and a weak or ineffective
criminal justice system hamper economic
development and reduce both the quality of
life and the confidence that people need in
order to invest in their neighbourhoods and
The impact of crime is particularly profound in
countries with inadequate social protection, such
as affordable health care and insurance. Victims
of crime in these countries are less able to recover
physically from violent crime or financially from
Homicide rates in Asia and the Pacific
are among the lowest in the world.
The annual homicide rate for Asia and the Pacific
will vary year by year depending on the countries
for which data are available, but the general trend
is that homicide rates are decreasing. In 2010, the
homicide rate for the region was 2.7 per 100,000
– approximately half of the global average of
5.1 per 100,000 – and included countries with
some of the lowest homicide rates in world.
Indeed, the three lowest homicide rates provided
by countries/areas for 2011 were from Asia and
the Pacific, namely: Japan (0.3 per 100,000);
Singapore (0.3 per 100,000); and Hong Kong,
China (0.2 per 100,000).
Figure D.4-1 Homicide rates, world regions, 2011 or latest
The highest homicide rates in the region are
found in the countries of North and Central
Asia. Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, for
example, have annual homicide rates above the
global average. However, rates have fallen
substantially in this subregion, driven mostly by
a fall in homicide rates per 100,000 in the
Russian Federation from 17.7 in 2005 to 9.7 in
Figure D.4-2 Trends in homicide rates, Asia and the Pacific,
There are many factors that may affect homicide
rates, but the link between homicide and
development is one of the clearest. Higher
homicide rates are associated with low human
and economic development. This is borne out by
comparisons of homicide rates in developed and
developing countries in Asia and the Pacific.
Long-term declines in the homicide rates in both
groups have coincided with periods of economic
growth, but homicide rates in developing
countries were more than five times higher in
2010 than they were in developed countries,
despite having fallen further in recent years.
Homicide rates, developing and developed
countries in Asia and the Pacific, 2005-2011
Countries with higher homicide rates also
tend to have higher robbery rates.1 Thus, the
comparison of homicide rates across Asia and the
Pacific may also serve as a reasonable proxy for
violent crime in general.
Note:The substantial increase in the homicide rate for developing
countries in 2008 was due to the availability of data for countries with
higher than average homicide rates, such as Indonesia, Myanmar and
Papua New Guinea for that year only.
Most homicide victims in Asia and the
Pacific are male.
Globally, about 80 per cent of homicide victims
are male. This is consistent with the countries of
Asia and the Pacific, where, on average, males
account for about 75 per cent of victims. The
distribution of male and female victims, however,
does vary substantially across countries.
Figure D.4-4 Percentage of all homicide victims that were
male, latest year available (2008-2010)
In Cambodia, Maldives, Philippines, Sri Lanka
and Timor-Leste for instance, over 90 per cent
of homicide victims are males, while in Brunei
Darussalam, Japan and Republic of Korea, the
figure is closer to 50 per cent.
Homicide rates are disproportionately high for
men because they are more likely to be engaged
in high-risk, violent activities that tend to
increase homicide rates. According to figures
published by the UNODC2, the chances of being
a victim of homicide peak for younger men and
reduce as involvement in violent activities,
such as street crime, gang membership, drug
consumption, possession of weapons and street
In contrast, homicide rates for women tend to
be far more evenly distributed over age groups due to their lower exposure to these high-risk,
age-specific activities, and they are more often the
victims of intimate partner or family violence.
Box D.4-1 Patterns of homicides and dowry deaths in India
The National Crime Records Bureau of India keeps
detailed criminal justice data on the number of homicide
victims by sex, age and motive. In 2009, out of a total
of 33,159 recorded homicide victims in India, 8,718
(26 per cent) were female, which is about the same as
in previous years. Some of these killings relate to disputes
over dowry payments or violent demands for higher
payments from the families of brides or brides-to-be.
Although the payment of a dowry has been illegal in
India since 1961, the practice remains common. Among
all female victims of recorded homicides, 1,267 (about
15 per cent) were recorded as dowry-related killings.
The police can record killings as “dowry deaths” under
a separate section of the Indian Penal Code.a These are
deaths of women within seven years of their marriage
for which circumstantial evidence provides a strong
suspicion of a dowry-related killing. In 2009, the police
recorded 8,383 dowry deaths of women and girls, so the
total number of homicides linked to dowries in 2009
was 9,650,b which is 56 per cent of all female victims
of violent killings including dowry deaths (17,101). The
reported number of dowry deaths has been increasing
for many years. While homicide levels steadily decreased
between 1995 and 2009 (by 31 per cent), the rate of
recorded dowry deaths increased by more than 40 per cent in the same period. This increase might be partly
due to more accurate recording by the police when there
are suspicious deaths, and partly due to increased
awareness and determination to address the issue.
However, it is likely that, in addition to officially
recorded dowry-related homicides and dowry deaths, an
unknown number of deaths related to dowry remain
undetected because they are often recorded as accidents
Homicide rates and dowry death rates in India,
Source: National Crime Records Bureau of India.
Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011 Global Study on Homicide: Trends, Contexts, Data (Vienna, 2011).
aSection 304B of the Indian Penal Code specifies that “where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise
than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or
harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called ‘dowry
death’ and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death”.
bThis is the sum of dowry-related killings (1,267) and dowry deaths (8,383) for 2009.
One quarter of the world’s estimated
prison population is held in China and
the Russian Federation.
The prison populations of China (1.64 million)
and the Russian Federation (756,000) in 2011
are the second and third largest in the world
behind that of the United States and account for
about one quarter of the world’s estimated total
prison population of about 9.8 million.3
Prison populations and prison population rates
reflect to varying degrees the levels of crime,
criminal justice policy and adherence to the rule
of law in a country and have a substantial and often underestimated social and economic
impact. High prison rates can, for example, result
in long-term economic problems if they lead to
income inequality and more concentrated
poverty, particularly if prison rates are highest for
vulnerable groups, such as the young, the poor,
the poorly educated or minorities.
The average (unweighted) prison population rate
for Asia and the Pacific is 205 per 100,000
population based on the latest figures available
– more than three times lower than the rate of
730 per 100,000 in the United States. However,
prison rates in the region vary substantially;
for example, they are 17 times higher in Georgia
(544 per 100,000) than in India (31 per 100,000).
Figure D.4-5 Prison population rates by subregion, latest
Many of the countries with the lowest prison
population rates are low-income economies or
lower-middle-income economies, including India
(31 per 100,000), Bangladesh (47 per 100,000)
and the Philippines (64 per 100,000). This may
in part be due to the substantial investment of
resources required to keep a person in prison and
to maintain an effective criminal justice system.
Difficulties in comparing conventional crime statistics
analysis and dissemination of information on crime and
criminal justice is a prerequisite for effective crime
prevention. However, most crime statistics are derived
from data recorded by the police, and the accuracy of
these statistics and their consistency with those of other
countries depends on four key factors:
How offences are defined by national legislations.
How offences are counted and recorded.
The confidence victims have in law enforcement and their willingness to report crime.
The capacity of the authorities to detect crime.
It is beyond the scope of statistics to account for
differences in the capacity of the authorities to detect
crime, but the first three issues can be addressed through
best practices in maintaining administrative data and
conducting random surveys.
The annual collection by UNODC of administrative
crime data from States Members of the United Nations
focuses on categories of conventional crimes that have
particular relevance for policymakers and where
definitions are most consistent. However, the rates of
response to this survey have been as low as 25 per cent
in Asia and the Pacific, and the crime rates reported can
vary substantially. For example, the rate of robbery in
India is typically 60 times lower than that reported by
the Russian Federation. Some of this difference may
reflect the “true” higher rate of robberies in the Russian
Federation, but differences in reporting practices will also
have an unquantifiable impact. For this reason, most
comparative analyses of crime across countries focus on
trends rather than on crime rates.
Even international comparisons of homicides, which are
defined reasonably consistently across countries, and
where crime rates are more routinely presented, should
be made with some caution. For example, if a victim of
a punch to the face dies, some countries will record the
offence committed as manslaughter and others as
intentional homicide. There can also be large variations
in the homicide levels reported for the same country
from different sources.
Variation in reported robbery rates for the 14 Asian
and Pacific countries and areas, 2011
An international classification for statistical purposes
could harmonize the way offences are defined and thus improve international comparability. Such a classification
should not be aimed at standardizing national penal
legislation but rather at defining and classifying offences
in a uniform way purely for statistical purposes. This
work is currently under way as mandated by the
Statistical Commission and led by UNODC.
However, differences in the willingness of victims
to report crimes will continue to distort comparisons
of police-recorded figures even after the way they are
counted and recorded is standardized. Crime
victimization surveys are an alternative source of
comparable data on conventional crimes not biased
by a victim’s trust in law enforcement or lack thereof.
These surveys are often used to supplement and
complement administrative statistics on conventional
crimes, and they provide a more reliable estimate of the
true crime rate and trends. The Manual on Victimization
Surveysa covers a wide range of issues related to planning
and implementing a victimization survey and is intended
to aid standardization.
A full analysis of the issues in producing comparable
statistics on conventional crimes, as well as nonconventional
crimes such as cyber-crime and corruption,
was presented by UNODC and the National Institute
of Statistics and Geography of Mexico at the forty-fourth
session of the Statistical Commission in 2013. Their
report on a road map to improve the quality and
availability of crime statistics at the national and
international levels (E/CN.3/2013/11) was welcomed by
the Statistical Commission, and the activities presented
in the road map were supported.b
aUnited Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Manual on Victimization Surveys (Geneva, United Nations, 2010).
bSee the report of the Statistical Commission on its forty-fourth session (Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 2013, Supplement No. 4 (E/2013/24-E/CN.3/2013/33), Decision 44/110).
In some developing countries in the
region, prisons have high levels of
overcrowding and a high proportion of
people held untried or pretrial.
In addition to the volume and rate of people held
in prison, there are other aspects of a country’s
incarceration policy that also have strong
socioeconomic implications. Those incarcerated
in overcrowded prisons are at far greater risk of
violence and communicating or catching diseases,
which can, in turn, be passed back into the wider
community. At the same time, excessive and
arbitrary pretrial detention undermines the rule of law in a country, deepens poverty and stunts
economic development. Furthermore, the
individuals held and not yet proven to be guilty
may lose their jobs, their homes and their ability
to provide for their families.
The problems of prison overcrowding and of the
proportions of prisoners held pretrial often go
hand in hand. In Asia and the Pacific,
Bangladesh, India and the Philippines are
particularly affected, with occupancy rates
ranging from around 125 per cent of capacity to
300 per cent of capacity, and pretrial detention
rates above 60 per cent of all prisoners.
Figure D.4-6 Relationship between pretrial detention and
overcrowding, latest year (2006-2011)
As observed with low prison rates, these problems
are found in low-income economies and lowermiddle-
income economies. It is often more
expensive for the State to keep someone in prison
than for a parent to send a child to an elite
private school, and pressure for scarce
government resources combined with voter
apathy towards prisoners may partly explain the
lack of investment in adequate facilities.
National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Report of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on a road map to improve the quality and availability of crime statistics at the national and international levels”. E/CN.3/2013/11. Available from http://
Open Society Foundations and United Nations Development Programme. The Socioeconomic Impact of Pretrial Detention: A Global Campaign for Pretrial Justice Report. New York: Open Society Foundations, 2011.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Crime and Victimization in Asia. Forthcoming.
________. Global Study on Homicide: Trends, Contexts, Data. Vienna, 2011.
Intentional homicide (per 100,000 population)
Intentional homicide – Male and female
Intentional homicide is unlawful death
purposefully inflicted on a person by another
person. It excludes attempted homicides, deaths
related to conflicts, deaths caused when the
perpetrator was reckless or negligent, as well as
killings that are usually considered justifiable
according to penal law, such as those by law
enforcement agents in the line of duty or in
self-defence. Aggregate calculations: Weighted
averages using population (WPP2012) as weight
(per 100,000 population), no aggregates calculated
(percentage). Missing data are not imputed.
Adults held in prison (number, per 100,000
Persons held in prisons, penal institutions or
correctional institutions on a specified day, and
should exclude non-criminal prisoners held for
administrative purposes, for example, foreign
citizens without a legal right to stay held prior
to removal. Aggregate calculations: Weighted
averages using population (WPP2012) as weight.
Missing data are not imputed.
Adult prison capacity (number)
The intended number of places available at
31 December without overcrowding, excluding
places/capacity used for the detention of persons
on the basis of their immigration status.
Aggregate calculations: Weighted averages using
population (WPP2012) as weight. Missing data
are not imputed.
Occupancy rate (percentage)
The number of people held in prison divided
by the official prison capacity. Aggregate
calculations: Weighted averages using population
(WPP2012) as weight. Missing data are not
Untried or in pre-trial detention (number)
Persons held in prisons, penal institutions or
correctional institutions without trial or before
a trial. Aggregate calculations: Weighted
averages using population (WPP2012) as weight.
Missing data are not imputed.
Source of crime statistics: UNODC. Member
States regularly submit to UNODC statistics on
crime and criminal justice (through the Crime
Trend Survey). UNODC applies scientific
methods to maximize the comparability of the
data. Data obtained: 30 August 2013.
1United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011 Global Study on Homicide: Trends, Contexts, Data (Vienna, 2011).
2United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011 Global Study on Homicide: Trends, Contexts, Data (Vienna, 2011).
3International Centre for Prison Studies, King’s College London, World Prison Population List, 8th ed. (London, 2009).