Whenever we speak of rape and molestation in India or any crime of sexual nature for that matter, we come to think of ones perpetrated against women by men. It is very rare that we think that men can have the same experience as well, that their honour can be violated in the same way that countless women suffer. For some, the frequency is more than others. Yet the tradition of physical violation – and consequent mental trauma – continues unabated in this great country of ours, known to outsiders as a land of tolerance and peace.
The Reality of India
In the different avenues of mainstream media as well as web world, the issue of women’s safety has reached a fevered crescendo and justifiably so, but unfortunately, much less attention and care, if it may be said so, is reserved for male victims of the same acts of crime. There are plenty of male rape survivors in India who live in a far worse situation than some of their fairer counterparts since the Indian society mostly does not take into cognizance the possibility that men can be raped as well.
Laws in India and the Problems with Them
The IPC (Indian Penal Code) Sections 354 A, B, C, and D deal with various instances of sexual crime such as sexual harassment, stalking, disrobing, and voyeurism. In all these laws, women are placed as victims and men are supposed to be the perpetrators.
Similarly, in IPL Section 375, which defines rape and states what punitive measures need to be taken against the same, there is no mention of rape against men. In 2013, the Justice Verma Committee took a major step in trying to make rape a crime that was gender neutral. He proposed that men be regarded as perpetrators and different kinds of people such as women, transgenders and men to be included in the ambit of victims. However, according to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 has been staunch in its focus on seeing women as victims of the crime.
As per the Juvenile Justice Act, which has been amended recently, 18 is the new age of consensual sexual activities. Anything below that is supposed to be rape and as always the boy is the perpetrator and the girl the victim. It takes for granted that women do not have any desire for sexual activities – in fact, it effectively bars them from having one: orthodoxy implicit.
Gravity of the Problem
The general indifference of the common people and lawmakers reinforces the stereotypically-patriarchal ideas of gender in our country. These stereotypes have a say on how the sexuality of both women and men is to be perceived. Women in India are supposed to be prized possessions – in some way or the other – and their sanctity is related to family’s honour. On the other hand, men are supposed to be the typical aggressors – always the protector or hunter but never the victim.
Men in India are supposed to have no fear at all and ideally prefer any kind of sexual advance – a grossly-generalised idea that may be true for certain individuals but is otherwise far removed from truth. Arvind Narrain, a lawyer who works for the Alternative Law Forum of Bangalore, said that the recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee should have been accepted in their fullest. He accepts the fact that women are the biggest victims of rape in India, but the same predicament can also happen to transgenders and men in custodial and confrontational circumstances.
He said that such situations could not be neglected at any cost. Narrain also pointed out instances of sexual violence against male soldiers in Abu Gharib and incidents of communal and caste violence in India to highlight his point.
Representations of Manliness in Popular Culture
In Indian mainstream culture, men who rebuff the sexual advances of women are supposed to be not as macho as the ones who accept them readily and gleefully. The fact that such proposals may be against a man’s consent, just as in case of women, is never accorded any importance. For men, any and every sexual activity is supposed to be a positive experience as it gives them an opportunity to assert their masculinity. There is nothing non-consensual or abusive about the same.
Situation of Homosexuals
By and large, Indian society has no place for homosexuality. It is not uncommon for people belonging to the LGBT community to face rape that is meant for corrective purposes. Quite often such activities are sanctioned by their peers and family members. The general idea in such cases is that the homosexuals have wrong idea of sexual orientation and they need to be corrected and that can only be done by acquainting them with members of the opposite gender in a sexual way. In spite of how common such acts of crime are in present-day society, they do not feature in discussions and social debates. Other acts of harassment perpetrated against this community – even if they are done by authority figures – are either given negligible importance or none at all.
Reporting of Male Rape and PTSD
From the looks of it, the social stigma attached with male rape is such that cases where men are victims of sexual violence are never reported. One would not find any definite statistics of such cases in India. It is not uncommon for victims to experience the most severe mental issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Most often men are afraid to bring such incidents to light for the simple reason that it would not be regarded as rape and because how it – and they by extension – would be perceived by the society.
Views of Women on the Issue – Can Women be Perpetrators?
The secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association or AIPWA, Kavita Krishnan, says that she fully supports the views of the Justice Verma Committee on making rape a gender-neutral criminal act. However, taking into view the power hierarchy in Indian society, she does not think women should be placed as perpetrators in the definition of sexual assaults and rapes in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013. According to Krishnan, rape is more than a physical crime – it is social in nature. Even though she does not deny the possibility of women being perpetrators of sexual crime, she considers such instances to be exceptional. Krishnan points out that there are not many such cases in India. According to her, such acts of crime may take place in cases of child rape or custodial crimes.
Do Men have Any Redress?
It would be wrong to assume that Indian law provides absolutely no redress in such cases. IPC Section 377, which is regarded as an anti-sodomy law, has been brought back in 2014 and victimized men can use this law to take legal course of action. However, there are some problems with this law as well. To start with, it has been described as a homophobic law by some and it lacks a clear distinction between consensual and non-consensual sex between two men. This means that even in case of consensual sex men can be implicated and tried in a court of law. The fact that sexual violence can be perpetrated against men is not recognised by this law. It only deals with penile intercourse – people who have been victimized in a non-penile way do not have any legal provisions going for them.
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