The most violent countries in the world

The United Nations’ latest report on crime shows South Africa has halved its murder rate, but still remains one of the most violent countries in the world for homicide.

In the global picture, intentional homicide caused the deaths of almost half a million people (437,000) across the world in 2012.

More than a third of those (36%) occurred in the Americas, 31% in Africa and 28% in Asia –  while Europe (5%) and Oceania (0.3%) accounted for the lowest shares of homicide at the regional level.

According to the UN’s data, around 750 million people live in countries with high homicide rates, meaning that almost half of all murders occur in countries that make up 11% of the global population.

Conversely, 3 billion people live in countries with low homicide rates, where murders on a declining trend path.

“Personal security is still a major concern for more than 1 in 10 people on the planet,” the UN said.

The report also found that the male homicide rate is almost four times higher than for females (9.7 versus 2.7 per 100,000) and is highest in the Americas (29.3 per 100,000 males), where it is almost seven times higher than in Asia, Europe and Oceania (all under 4.5 per 100,000 males).

Men are more likely to be killed by strangers, while women remain at risk at home, more often than not killed at the hands of their intimate partners or family members.

The majority of both male and female victims were young, with victims aged between 15-29 accounting for more than half of all murders.

Global homicide victims
Global homicide victims

15 most violent countries in the world (murders per 100,000 people, 2012)

# Country No. of Murders
Murder rate
1 Hondorus 7,172 90.4
2 Venezuela 16,072 53.7
3 Belize 145 44.7
4 El Salvadore 2,594 41.2
5 Guatamala 6,025 39.9
6 Jamaica 1,087 39.3
7 Saint Kitts 18 33.6
8 South Africa 16,259 31.0
9 Colombia 14,670 30.8
10 Bahamas 111 29.8
11 Trinidad and Tobago 379 28.3
12 DRC 18,586 28.3
13 Puerto Rico 978 26.5
14 Rwanda 2,648 23.1
15 Dominican Republic 2,268 22.1

South African crime

According to the report, South Africa has managed to more than halve its murder rate, from 64.5 in 1995, to 31.0 in 2012 – however, the country remains the 8th most violent, and the most violent in Africa.

The UN’s report is thus a mixed bag for South Africa, as the country appears to be improving the rate of violence in many aspects, despite its high violence ranking.

Gender based violence has also improved significantly, according to the report, with a 50% decrease in the overall rate of female homicide between 1999 and 2009, as well as a 36% decrease in the rate of females killed by their intimate partners in the same period.

“The decrease is encouraging but South Africa’s female homicide rate is still five times the global rate (2.6 per 100,000 women) and intimate partner homicide now accounts for 57% of total female homicides in the country,” the UN said.

The South African government responded to the UN’s findings positively.

“This study is in line with what we already know, and working on improving,” government spokeswoman, Phumla Williams said.

“Government has and continues to, through the justice, crime, prevention and security cluster, ensure that steps are taken to fight and reduce crime,” she said.

Williams noted that the SA Police Service statistics from 2012/2013 revealed that there was a significant and constant reduction of murder.

“South Africa has broken the cycle of violence, and this is evident by the steady decrease of the murder rate by more than 50 percent.”

Williams said through the country’s judicial system, many perpetrators of violent crimes, including murder, had faced the might of the law, and had received appropriate sentences.

Most violent cities

A report released by the Mexican research group Seguridad, Justicia y Paz (Security, Justice and Peace), revealed data which was echoed by the UN, in terms of the most violent cities in the world.

San Pedro Sula of Honduras was listed by the firm as the most violent city in the world with over 187 murders per 100,000 people.

Caracas, Venezuela (2nd) and Acapulco, Mexico (3rd) were the only other two cities to see triple-digit murders per 100,000 people, with 134 and 112, respectively.

The top 20 most dangerous cities in the world (with populations over 300,000) are comprised almost entirely of South and Central American cities – with Cape Town being the only exception as the highest-ranked non-South American city, ranked the 20th most violent in the world

With 51 murders per 100,000 people, Cape Town ranks as the most violent city in the South Africa for its 3.7 million residents.

In South Africa, other violent cities included in the top 50 were Nelson Mandela Bay (35.7 per 100,000) and Durban (32.4 per 100,000).

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The most violent countries in the world