This article is written by – Ishita Dhir, a student of Maharaja Agrasen Institute of management studies, GGSIPU
Rape in general is usually defined as a crime against women. Though women have been victimized by men, a significant number of rapes and sexual abuse cases are reported against men as well. However, the patriarchal society makes it difficult for men to come up as victims. It is seen as taboo in society and gives a negative connotation among heterosexual men. The rape of males is often considered an unmasculine action. Thousands of men hide and deny that they were victimized, hence, the cases go unreported. Myths and taboos play one of the most important roles in Indian Society. They are of the view that rapes cannot be committed against men. They are not vulnerable to rape since they are seen as the strongest of all in society. Taking all the burden on their shoulders, they are not even allowed to cry openly, getting raped is still at a distance. It’s unfortunate but most people still don’t talk about it.
According to statistics, 1 in 10 male-on-male rapes is reported. Government data also reveals that about 50% of cases of sexual assault victims are males. The sense of stigma of male rape is devasting and traumatizing. Men are silent victims who cannot book a woman under rape charges as penile penetration is still a matter of concern. Toxic masculinity forces the concept that only women can be raped. The fault in this lies since women at a large number exploit men due to the vulnerable position they hold in society and play as victims later. But rape is just non-consensual intercourse, whether it be a woman or a man, anyone can be raped.
Unrealistic standards set by others deprive the actual feelings of males. They have to depict themselves as strong and deal with their feelings on their own. Lack of awareness about the effects of the experiences of males about sexual assault and abuse and rape gives a boost to the myths and taboos. Their emotions often get hidden behind the statement ‘Mard ko dard nahi hota’ and leave them helpless. Rape trauma syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder are common psychological consequences.
Law and Order
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is the only section that criminalizes offenses of nonconsensual intercourse. This section penalizes forced sodomy with a punishment of imprisonment of a minimum of 10 years to a lifetime. The section governs non-consensual penile, non-vaginal sex, and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors. Rape is considered the act of penile penetration or any foreign object into the vagina without the consent of a woman or girl which is mentioned under Section 375 (9) of IPC. If we analyze the definition, we see that a rape offender is always a man and the victim is necessarily a woman.
The Indian laws do not cover male rape under the definition of rape in the IPC. There is a complete lack of spotlight on male sexual abuse. When the laws themselves have discriminated and symbolized men as offenders. It also shows that there are no laws if a man rapes another man or a female rape another man. In India interpretation of rape is restricted to inserting a penis or an object in the vagina. The cases of rape and sexual assault of males have been rising continuously but the narrow scope of the law has made it impossible for them to get justice.
Only two laws govern and realize that sexual assault and rape can be committed against both males and females. Firstly, the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses) Act provides a provision for male children but no such provision is available for adult males. Secondly, the UGC “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act” recognizes that men can be assaulted too. There is a glaring gap in the data on male rape and sexual abuse beyond the age of 18 years.
Need to be Gender Neutral
We preach gender equality and have gender-biased rules in the Constitution. Law needs to be gender-neutral and balanced. Protection for men, women and transgender people should also be given the chance. Having gender-biased laws that favor the cases of women-only will lead to injustice only. Terms such as woman or female shall be changed to person. Justice is not served to those who need it. The pain and trauma that the victim goes through cannot just go in vain. Justice needs to be served to them. Proper gender-neutral rules are required in the country. With the development of society, taboos have also started to take a downward slope. Victims fight their battles on their own. Male rape survivors are the silent community who can lead a perfect rebellion for their rights.
Back in 2013, when the term ‘rape’ was replaced with ‘sexual assault’ to cover all genders, it was reversed back. The horrors of the Nirbhaya Case made everyone sensitive to this issue but the feminists and groups of women showed resistance to this. It was quoted that “it would harm the interests of the women”. The Justice Verma Committee tried its best but the resistance forced them to reverse it. These groups even called this act an attack on feminism and believed that rape is completely patriarchal. A bill was proposed in 2019, in the Rajya Sabha to bring gender neutrality to sexual offenses.
The issue relates to India and it is rightly said that the majority of the perpetrators are men which results in losing the concept of men being victims. Even men require laws to safeguard and protect them. Several laws have been amended over the years but society lacks protection against men and transgenders. A legal gap can be seen in the sections on sexual offenses when the female or male can be a victim or a perpetrator. Awareness about sexual offenses needs to be made and discomfort and embarrassment because of the myths and taboos need to be reduced. The gendered nature of rape should not be undermined.
Understanding the opinions and hearing experiences of men relating to rape and sexual offenses. Voices are raised when injustice is done to women but not when men are denied justice. It is time that Courts start talking about sexual offenses against men and introduce gender-neutral laws. Male rape takes place every day and thousands go unreported, it is time to support them and fight for the justice that has been denied to them.
“A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the ‘husband’ on the woman ‘wife’.” Justice M Nagaprasanna