This article is written by Gul Zehra, from NMIMS, Navi Mumbai.
Table of Contents
Whenever we talk about sexual assault, the only thought that comes to our mind is that it only happens to a woman. But in today’s era, we should not forget the fact that sexual assault can happen to other genders too. When we compare the amount of information available on the internet, we will find that most of the information on this topic is related to sexual assault of women. This is because it is difficult to gather information on the experiences of men who have faced sexual assault at some point in their lives. There could only be one possible reason for this lack of information and that is that the world has still not accepted that something like this can happen to men too and so, men don’t come out and speak up against such things due to the fear of facing societal backlash. This study addresses the sexual assault of men and boys and the lack of awareness regarding the same. The data collected is a questionnaire answered by 115 people of different age groups and from various professions. Most of them believe that men and boys can in fact be sexually assaulted and that women can also be the perpetrators of sexual crimes while there were a few people with a belief that men cannot be sexually assaulted and women cannot sexually assault anyone.
“Mard ko kabhi dard nahi hota”
The Indian upbringing of a man has created a stereotype that a man can never feel pain, and if he does, he is not a man. The same belief has led to people believing that a man cannot be raped or sexually assaulted because men are privileged to be men in a patriarchal society.
Men are often or always believed to be the perpetrators of sexual assault and not the victim, whereas, in the case of women, it is believed that women can only be victims and never the perpetrators. This belief has been developed since time immemorial because in most or all the cases that come into light, it is a man who assaulted a woman and never the opposite. When asked if a man can be sexually assaulted, most of the people answer “No” because of the belief that a man can never be raped or sexually assaulted and that the topic in itself is a ridiculous one.
Rape or sexual assault of men and boys have been kept a “Dark Secret” for so long that now the society is either oblivious to this or completely turns a blind eye towards such incidents if they ever come out of the shadow. The social pressure, fear of being disbelieved and social backlash stop the male victims of sexual assault from opening up to anyone about these difficult and painful incidents, encouraging the perpetrators to go on hunting their prey.
When we compare the amount of information available on the internet, we will find that most of the information on this topic is related to sexual assault of women. This is because it is difficult to gather information on the experiences of men who have faced sexual assault at some point in their lives. If we search ‘Rape in India’ on Wikipedia, the first line itself talks only about the rape of women. It says, “Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India.” It is important to address the issue such as rape, but we also need to know that rape and sexual assault is a gender-neutral crime and happens to men too. Focusing merely on the problems faced by one gender and neglecting the problems of the other is not fair or just in any way. It is unjust and unfair for the males to suffer because of a false belief that they cannot be sexually harassed.
Sexual assault of men and boys is a frequently happening crime as any other crime which needs the attention of people and law makers. While some people may agree that rape of men happen in prisons, most do not even care to think that sexual assault against men and boys happen in a much broader way than they think or care to know. The Judgment by the Supreme Court that decriminalized the consensual sexual relations between adults of the same gender, which was a crime under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, is still looked down upon by many people in India who still consider homosexuality a taboo and a disease which means that the homosexuals still have a long road to travel in order to be empowered and given their rights. Therefore, in a country like India, where two years back, people were not even ready to accept homosexuality as a natural phenomenon and believed it to be a taboo, the idea of a male member of the society being raped, by any gender, still has a long way to go before it gets recognized by the people.
“Men can take care of themselves”
A news article of 23 May, 2018 says, ““Akram”, who was raped by a preacher at the age of 14, has revealed horrific details of the crime. In India, a culture of silence surrounds cases of sexual assault on boys.” [https://www.bbc.com/news/av/stories-44203667/breaking-silence-an-indian-man-shares-his-rape-ordeal] In our society, men are presumed to be strong and tough, therefore, the idea of a man being raped or sexually assaulted is unbelievable and hence, the victims are ignored and treated as a shameful person who cannot be a man. “Be a man” is the term that every boy has heard. Whenever he cries, whenever he gets hurt, whenever he expresses his emotions, he is told, “Don’t behave like a girl, be a man.” This upbringing of men in the society has given rise to toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity, as defined in the Urban Dictionary, means “A social science term that describes a narrow repressive type of ideas about the male gender role that defines masculinity as exaggerated masculine traits like being violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth. Also suggests that men who act too emotional or maybe aren’t violent enough or don’t do all of the things that “real men” do, can get their “man card” taken away.” [https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Toxic%20Masculinity]
It has become a stigma when a man expresses his feelings and emotions which is another reason why sexual assault of men and boys has been ignored since time immemorial. This is one of the worst things we can do to a man, that is, not let him be himself because he has gender roles to fulfill. “Our patriarchal society holds males to be the stronger sex and expects men to be able to protect themselves. Many men who have survived child sexual abuse have been subjected to comments such as “Why didn’t you beat him up? You are a man!” [https://journal.rostrumlegal.com/dont-boys-get-raped-breaking-the-silence-on-sexual-abuse-of-the-male-child-in-india/]
Regarding the same topic of sexual assault of men and male children, a questionnaire was prepared and circulated to different people, belonging to age groups from 16 to 60. Most of the people that answered the questionnaire were 20 year old students while some of them were Bankers, Homemakers, Teachers, Architects, Engineers, etc.
The data received shows that the majority of the people who answered the survey are aware that even men can be sexually assaulted and it’s not just women who are prone to this. Even though there is hardly any news or cases in the television or newspaper about a man being raped or sexually assaulted, there have been instances where men have come forward and opened up about their experiences of sexual assault in their lives on various social media platforms.
The question, “Are men and boys raped and sexually harassed too?” was asked in the questionnaire which had 115 responses. Out of 115, 107 people agreed that men and boys can be sexually assaulted too, whereas, 8 people answered otherwise. 2 of them had their own opinion, which was, “In rare cases… 30-40 percent cases…But complaints are not recorded.”, “Sometimes, not many times, as compared to women.”
According to the responses of the survey, sexual assault of men and boys exists, but it is not as common as sexual assault of women and girls. As is also written by one of the person who answered the survey, “sexual assault of men and boys happen sometimes, not many times as compared to women.”
According to the Crime survey for England and Wales (CSEW), “in the year 2017, till the month of March, there were 20% women and 4% men who experienced sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to 3.4 million female and 631,000 male victims.” [The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), About Sexual Violence, Rape Crisis England and Wales]
In another question, “Is rape of men and boys uncommon/ rare?” 52 out of 115 people selected the option that said “Yes, it is uncommon/ rare” whereas, 62 out of 115 people chose “No, it is not uncommon/ rare” and one person selected the option that said, “There is no such thing as rape of men.”
53.9% believe that rape of men and boys is not an uncommon crime and it takes place more frequently than we are aware of, whereas, 45.2% believe that rape of men is not that common and is rare.
The accurate answer to the question “Are men and boys raped and sexually assaulted as often as women or not?” still remains unanswered as there is not much information gathered anywhere yet to answer this question with any surety. However, through the data obtained, it is clear that men and boys are also prone to sexual assault and are not immune to it.
Even though women are more prone to sexual assault than men, it does not negate the fact that men and boys are sexually assaulted too and they should be given equal importance and opportunity to report the assault and get justice because sexual assault is a gender-neutral crime and there should be no discrimination on the basis of gender, which is also a Fundamental Right under Article 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.
What counts as Sexual Assault?
“According to the definition given by World Health Organization, child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. There is an unending silence around this subject and a very large percentage of people feel that child sexual abuse happens only to girls.” [https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Toxic%20Masculinity]
Most would say that forcing someone to have sex is sexual assault, but what they don’t know is that sexual assault is a very broad term which includes even the small things such as someone undressing in front of someone. Sexual assault of men and boys also include many things which are not known by most people in the society. When a woman forces a man to have sex with him, it is sexual assault committed by that woman. However, people don’t usually consider it as sexual assault and if the man complains, he will receive comments such as “Why are you complaining, you got to enjoy!” It is often treated as a joke and thus, this has become a common thing. Men don’t know what counts as sexual assault and when it happens to them, they cannot comprehend the situation and think that it’s normal and if they get uncomfortable, they believe that something is wrong with them, psychologically or sexually. Therefore, it is very important to know what counts as sexual assault and acknowledge it and reach for help as early as possible.
When I asked the question, “What counts as sexual assault for you?” to my friends, they all had different answers but one thing in those answers were common, that is, forced sex. The level of unawareness of what is sexual assault is shocking.
The questionnaire circulated to people of different age and profession had a question that asked “What comes under sexual assault of men and boys?” and the options were,
“1. Woman undressing in front of a man and he gets uncomfortable.
- Woman touching a man’s sex organ.
- Woman seducing a man to have sex against his will.
- Engaging in sex that the man did not want.
- Woman commenting on a man’s sex organ.
- A man being tempted or tricked into sex by a woman.
- All of the above.
- None of the above
- Other…” In which, 58.3% have said that they believe that all of the above given options counts as sexual assault. One of the opinions given in the “Other” option says that there are many other ways such as blackmailing a man whereas, 40% believe that only woman seducing a man to have sex against his will and engaging in sex that the man did not want is sexual assault and not others.
It is not necessary that only a woman can sexually assault a man. It can also be a man who is the perpetrator of sexual assault against another man or a boy.
Another question regarding what comes under sexual assault was asked in the questionnaire in the form of a case study which is given below.
Since it is a common belief that men cannot be sexually harassed or assaulted because they are the stronger gender, we can see that 7.8% have said that the employee ‘A’ did the sexual favors for his boss Ms ‘B’ willingly and 5 people have said that it was not sexual harassment at workplace. 87.8% believe that it was sexual harassment at workplace as ‘A’ was asked for some sexual favors in order to get promoted to the post of manager.
The next question was if it was anyone’s fault with 4 different options that says, “1. Yes, it was Ms B’s fault.
- Yes, it was the fault of both, Ms B and A.
- Yes, it was A’s fault.
- No, it was nobody’s fault” in which, 76.5% have said that it was Ms B’s fault as she had sexually harassed A at workplace whereas, 20% believe that it was the fault of both, A and Ms B. 2 people said that it was A’s fault because he is a man and 2 people said that there was no one’s fault in doing so.
Would the answers change if the situation had been changed where Mr. A was the boss and B was a female employee and Mr. A had asked B for some sexual favors if she wanted a promotion? Possibly.
There needs to be acknowledgment that whatever happens with a woman can happen with a man too. If a woman can face sexual harassment at workplace, a man can too. If a boss who is of any gender, asks for sexual favors from an employee, irrespective of the gender, is committing sexual harassment at workplace and there are no exceptions if the employee does not do it willingly or does not agree to it. In the above given case study, there was no proof that A had done what was asked of him by his boss, yet some people answered that A did it willingly. This is because they presumed that since he was a man, he got an opportunity of getting sexual with a woman and he took it. Here, it is only 2 out of 115 people, but all over the world, there will be more out of 7.8 billion people.
To be clearer about people’s understanding of what sexual assault is, there is one more case study given below, answered by the same 115 people.
Except for 2.6%, everyone believes that what Mrs X did to A was not just a punishment but sexual assault. Even if ‘A’ was just a 7 years old kid, making him walk naked in the school is an act of sexual assault and the teacher who did this should be held liable for it. Just because she was his teacher, she doesn’t have immunity from committing crimes against her students, irrespective of their gender.
When asked if their answers would change, had ‘A’ been a girl, 5.2% of them answered yes while 94.8% answered no. Sexual abuse knows no gender and age, the sooner we realize this, the better. Like I said before, here it is only 5.2% of 115 people, but all over the world, the percentage will be more of 7.8 billion people.
“Rape is patriarchal”
“Many parliamentarians and some activists argue that only members of one sex can rape and only the other can be raped, for rape is only ever patriarchal.” [, https://ccsindia.org/indias-law-should-recognise-men-can-be-raped-too]
“Child sexual abuse is gender-neutral, Maneka Gandhi said. Boys who are sexually abused as children spend a lifetime in silence because of the stigma and shame attached to male survivors speaking out. It is a serious problem and need to be addressed.” [https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/23/indian-study-male-sexual-abuse-film-maker-insia-dariwala]
It is a common belief that only men are the perpetrators in rape and sexual assault cases and women are the victims. If you ask pedestrians, fruit vendors, street hawkers, and common people in general about who can be raped, the answer will be “Females” because there is not enough information and awareness on the topic of rape of men. Even if one of males among those common people has gone through rape or sexual assault in their lives, they will not be aware that it really was rape or sexual assault. And even if they are aware, they will never speak up about it because it will make them “Less manly.” However, if you ask the same question from a female and if she had been through sexual assault, it is likely that she will open up about it and acknowledge this as compared to a man. This is because the society, even though practices victim blaming, is more open about rape of women than about rape of men.
According to the Indian rape laws, rape can only be done by a man and never a woman.
However, when asked if the women are always victim of sexual assault and men are always the perpetrators, majority of people, that is, 90.4%, answered that victims of sexual assault and rape are not only women always and 83.5% answered that the perpetrators of sexual assault and rapists are not always men but 16.5% answered that men are always the rapists and perpetrators.
Rape is believed to be a patriarchal crime done against the women. Even I was not aware about men being raped a few years ago. It was a shock when an answer on Quora.com came up about a man being raped by his relative and not being able to comprehend what happened to him. It shows the level of unawareness that exists on this topic. The probable cause for this lack is the fear of societal backlash that stops the men from opening up about it and the toxic masculinity that does not let them acknowledge that even they can be raped or sexually assaulted.
When asked “Who can be raped and sexually assaulted?” 100% of the people answered all of the above; that means that women, girls, men, boys and transgender, all can be raped and sexually assaulted. But as the question changed from who can be assaulted to who can assault, the answers also changed.
As we can see from the above pie-chart, when asked if a woman or a girl can rape or sexually assault a man or a boy, 88.7% answered that a woman or girl can rape or sexually assault a man or a boy but 9.6% of them answered no while one person said that there is no such thing as rape or sexual assault of men and boys. In the previous question of who can be raped or sexually assaulted, 100% of them have said that all genders can be raped or sexually assaulted but when asked if women can assault a man, the answer of 9.6% of them changed. This shows that they think that a man can sometimes be a victim but when it comes to women being the perpetrators, they don’t think that it’s possible for a woman to assault a man.
When the same question was asked in a different manner with removal of the gender being sexually harassed by women, a few of the responses changed. While 89.6% of them have agreed that women and girls are capable of sexually harassing someone, the 7.8% have disagreed to this. There are three people who have given their separate opinions that mutually say that only some women are capable of doing so but only 2-10 out of 100 women are capable.
When further asked “Who can sexually assault a man or a boy?” the answers again changed as seen below in the pie-chart.
5.2% have answered that only women and girls can sexually assault or rape men and boys, 1.7% have said that only men and boys can rape or sexually assault men and boys, 0.9% have said that there is no such thing as rape of men whereas, 90.4% believe that all of the genders given above in the options can rape or sexually harass men and boys.
Even if there was no such thing as rape or sexual harassment of men and boys, the perpetrators are not always men. A woman is capable of sexually harassing someone, irrespective of their gender. An article, as well as the primary data collected in the form of the questionnaire states that women are capable of raping as well as sexually assaulting someone, even another woman.
“In understanding what constitutes rape, international law has evolved from viewing it just as penile-vaginal to penile-orifice and then to penetrative-orifice, all within a non-consensual context. By the last legal definition, the physical violation with blunt objects undergone by Nirbhaya at the hands of her gang rapists would be classified as rape. It would by current Indian legal standards as well. Yet if the setting had been an Indian women’s jail and the exact same violation had occurred by fellow prisoners, there would be no rape. To be sure, it would be an assault-based crime of some form, but not rape, even though the victim would have been forcefully penetrated in a sexual manner by her assailants.” [https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Toxic%20Masculinity]
Not just people but the legal system of India also believes that women are not capable of doing such an act and thus, the definition of Rape only covers male perpetrators and not female which poses a big problem. When a case in May arrives before the Indian Court where a woman molested another woman, the Court faced difficulty while arriving at a decision since the laws do not cover such incidents. This may be seen as a positive step towards the amendment in the laws, but with “May”, comes “may not.”
Information Available Online
When I typed “Rape in India” on the internet, all the articles, statistics, and news that came up on my phone were that of rape of women. Then, I typed “Rape of men in India” only 3 out of 10 articles came up that were merely related to what I typed in the search engine, one was a Wikipedia page. The other articles were, “How men see rape in India” from ‘The Daily Beast’ which talks about the tragic and horrendous Nirbhaya Rape case that indeed shook the Nation. The others were also news article stating that the convicts of Nirbhaya gang rape are hanged and so on. This observation indirectly answers my 4th research question, “Are cases of male rape or sexual assault reported and given as much importance as that of a female?”
Some of the news articles found on the internet are being stated below:
In Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvannamalai, a 32 years old female teacher was arrested and remanded to a women police officer for sexually assaulting her male students for the period of three years. An article published in the Times of India says that “The woman, who used to lure the boys promising to buy them gadgets such as mobile phones, had sexually assaulted them on many occasions in the school and at home during tuition. She had even taken them to secluded spots and allegedly captured pictures and videos of their intimate moments.” [https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.timesofindia.com/city/chennai/tamil-nadu-teacher-held-for-sexually-assaulting-her-male-students/amp_articleshow/68530874.cms]
Another article published on The Indian Express says that “the Pune City Police has booked a physical education teacher for allegedly sexually assaulting a male student of Class IX on Friday. A social activist who helped the victim and his parents said “After the school got over at 12:20 pm, the teacher allegedly took the boy to the school toilet and sexually assaulted him. After returning home, he complained to his father.” [https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-teacher-booked-for-sexually-assaulting-class-ix-male-student-probe-on-6132803/lite/]
An article published in India Today says that the Principal and three Teachers of Kendriya Vidyalaya were booked for sexually harassing a Class XI boy student. It says, “According to the Police, the boy was stripped and sexually harassed by the three on Saturday under the guise of frisking whether he was having a mobile phone. Besides, the student’s younger brother was allegedly harassed by the teachers.” [https://www.indiatoday.in/amp/crime/story/students-accuses-principal-3-teachers-of-sexual-harassment-1628797-2019-12-16]
Another article of India Today talks about a teenage boy who was sodomized by four men of his village in the Puwaya area of Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The article states that, “The incident took place on Saturday evening when the four accused forcibly took the 13-year-old-boy to an orchard and allegedly sodomized him, Puwaya Station House Officer (SHO) Jasvir Singh said.” [https://www.indiatoday.in/crime/story/uttar-pradesh-13-yr-old-boy-sodomised-by-four-men-in-shahjahanpur-1549861-2019-06-16]
These are the few news articles that came up after searching “Cases of rape and sexual harassment of men and boys in India.” All these cases are those of sexual assault of boys in India and as we can see, all except for one case mentioned above is of a school teacher sexually assaulting the minor students. However, no cases of a major male are found.
Sexual assault of boys, even though not as often as of girls, is still reported and tried but sexual assault and rape of men is not reported in India because there are no laws for that as of now. Before the Homosexuality judgment that removed some part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, there was one law which prohibited sexual intercourse between same sex which could be tried in the Court for Sodomy but now, after the judgment, same sex intercourse is not illegal which leaves no scope for the male rape cases to be reported.
To support this claim, the answer of a question of the questionnaire circulated is attached below. The question is, “Are cases of rape and sexual assault of men and boys reported?”
When asked if cases of sexual assault of men and boys reported, 72.2% people answered no, whereas 27% of them said yes.
Sexual assault and rape of men is not reported as often as that of women and girls. There could be many reasons for that. One such reason could be the Indian society and the stigma that it has attached with men being victim of something, especially of rape and sexual assault.
The toxic masculinity which is a result of such upbringing that “Mard ko kabhi dard nahi hota” is another reason which stops the males of the society to even acknowledge that something like rape or sexual assault can happen to them, and instead of reporting it, they become even more aggressive and violent and are more likely to take it out on their loved ones and the close ones. It also might be one of the reasons for domestic violence faced by Indian women in their houses.
Being a man is the most important title a male can get. When a man is made to believe that he will only be a man if he never cries and be a soft person, he abides by the upbringing and never shows his emotions to anyone. So, when something such as rape or sexual assault happens with him, he keeps it with himself and doesn’t share it with anyone, even his family and friends due to the fear of being made fun of and looked down upon by his family and peers.
He can also be termed as a homosexual if he speaks up about rape and sexual assault faced by him, which is another stigma in the Indian society even today. Men, when speaking up about such incidents, are hardly believed. This disbelief leads to them not reporting the cases and keep it with them, sustaining the torture. I believe that the policemen in India also do not report such cases even if a man does approach the police station to report the case of sexual assault or rape happened against him because of the common belief that men cannot be raped. This stereotype and the stigma behind a man being raped or sexually assaulted is the main reason why such cases are hidden in the shadows and giving a push to the perpetrators to continue committing such acts against men without any fear.
Rape Laws in India
Rape, under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is defined as, “Rape: A man is said to commit “rape” if he:
(a) penetrates his penis, to any extent, into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or
(b) inserts, to any extent, any object or a part of the body, not being the penis, into the vagina, the urethra or anus of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or
(c) manipulates any part of the body of a woman so as to cause penetration into the vagina, urethra, anus or any part of body of such woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or
(d) applies his mouth to the vagina, anus, urethra of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person, under the circumstances falling under any of the following seven descriptions: First: Against her will.
Secondly: Without her consent.
Thirdly: With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested, in fear of death or of hurt.
Fourthly: With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
Fifthly: With her consent when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.
Sixthly: With or without her consent when she is less than eighteen years of age.
Seventhly: When she is unable to communicate consent.
Explanation 1: For the purposes of this section, “vagina” shall also include labia majora. Explanation 2: Consent means an unequivocal voluntary agreement when the woman by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates willingness to participate in the specific sexual act: Provided that a woman who does not physically resist to the act of penetration shall not by the reason only of that fact, be regarded as consenting to the sexual activity.
Exception 1: A medical procedure or intervention shall not constitute rape.
Exception 2: Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”
By reading this definition, it is evident that according to the Indian legal system, rape can only be done by a man, against a woman and not the other way round.
However, earlier, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 talked about unnatural sex which included Sodomy. The section states, “Unnatural offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.” But later in 2018, in the landmark judgment of Navtej Singh Jauhar vs Union of India, AIR 2018 SC 4321, consensual sex between adults of same gender in India was decriminalized by the Supreme Court. After this Judgment, there was a problem regarding the rape laws that protected men from rape in India. Since there was no other law that focused on rape of men, called as Sodomy in legal terms in India, Section 377 of IPC was a protection. After same sex intercourse was decriminalized in India, it will be difficult for men to prove that the sex that happened with another man was consensual or not. This makes it easier for men to rape men and get away with it since Section 375 of IPC protects only women from rape and not men.
In an article of The Guardian, it is stated that “A film maker asked by the Indian Government to conduct a study of male survivors of child sexual abuse has said there is a culture of indifference in the country about what happens to men as boys. Insia Dariwala is investigating links between unresolved male trauma and its impact in later life, after an online survey of 160 Indian men showed that 71% of respondents had been sexually abused as children. Last month, India’s minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, amended legislation to make the protection of children from sexual abuse gender-neutral for the first time. She has invited Dariwala and her hands of Hope Foundation, along with another non-profit organization, to begin an in-depth study of male sexual abuse.” [https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/23/indian-study-male-sexual-abuse-film-maker-insia-dariwala]
There might be some International treaties that cover the problem and issue of male rape and sexual assault but in India, there is no law yet that focuses on male rape and sexual assault. There are laws for the protection of children from sexual assault and rape like POCSO, but for girls. Maneka Gandhi, in the above referred article has said that these laws should be gender-neutral and will be making amendments for the protection of male children from rape and sexual assault but there is no discussion about making gender-neutral laws for the protection of men from rape and sexual assault. A suggestion to make gender-neutral rape laws in India was rejected by the reason that it is not as prevalent as rape of women and when needed, the authorities will think about it and decide and act accordingly.
When asked if there should be gender neutral laws in India, 99.1% people said yes.
While 0.8% believes that there is no need for such measures because rape can only happen with a woman or girl and not men.
Even if there was no such thing as rape of men, there should be gender-neutral laws in a country where the Constitution itself talks about equality and no discrimination on the basis of gender or any other thing. It is an important issue and should be addressed at the earliest.
How Men Cope
Men, because of toxic masculinity and their stereotyped upbringing that men are not soft, are believed to be the more aggressive gender than women. Even though it is likely that all the genders respond and cope up with sexual assault and rape similarly, that is, suicidal, shame, guilt, depression, trauma, fear, confusion, self-blame, etc, men are more likely to become more aggressive and respond towards such incidents through anger than women. This not only affects them but also their whole family and people close to them because this anger is sometimes taken out on them. They become frustrated because it is difficult for them to comprehend what happened to them, and most importantly, how is it possible that something like that happened to a man like himself who was always made to believe that he is strong and manly and nothing as such can happen to him. Male victims of rape and sexual assault are also more prone to become addicts and alcoholics. They may start feeling that they are not man enough or there could be fear of homosexuality.
“Male physiological reactions during a sexual assault may also make it more difficult for a male survivor to recognize that he was sexually assaulted. Some men may have an erection or may ejaculate during a sexual assault, and may later feel confused that perhaps this means that they enjoyed the experience, or that others will not believe that they were sexually assaulted. In reality, erections and ejaculations may be purely physiological responses, sometimes caused by intense fear or pain. In fact, some perpetrators will deliberately manipulate their victim to orgasm, out of a desire to completely control their victims. The perpetrator can continue this manipulation after the assault to coerce the survivor away from reporting or seeking help. A physical reaction of an erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault in no way indicates that the man enjoyed the experience or that he did something to cause it or permit it.” [https://sapac.umich.edu/article/53]
For people, erection means that the man is sexually aroused. Whereas, biologically, it is not the only time when a man gets an erection, pain could be another reason. This is a technique used by the perpetrator to make the man believe that he enjoyed the sexual experience which in turn, confuses the victim and makes him believe that he did in fact enjoy the experience even though he did not want to participate in it and is not sure about it and so, they keep quiet about it the whole time and deal with it themselves. This leads them to frustration and confusion and anger and it then interferes with their daily life. It affects their work, social, love and family life as well, which leads them into depression which mostly results in them taking drastic measures such as committing suicide.
Most of the people do not even realize what sexual assault is and when it happens to them, they are unable to understand.
In my questionnaire, I asked the people if they have ever been sexually assaulted, the responses received are given below in the form of a pie-chart.
There are 57 male and 58 female respondents who have submitted their response in the questionnaire. 1.7% of them did not know what sexual assault is, 27% have faced sexual assault at some point in their lives, whereas 7.8% were not comfortable opening up about it even though the questionnaire was to be filled anonymous.
This silence on sexual assault is a black mark which needs to be taken care of and addressed by the society.
When asked if they know about a male relative who has been sexually assaulted, there were 20.9% people who have said that they do and 7% said that their families are not open about such things, which is another reason why people, especially men, don’t open up about such things as their families keep silent on such incidents or either blame the victims only. 20.9% of 115 people agree that they are aware of their male relative being sexually assaulted. When surveyed on a large scale, this number would be a lot more than this and it would still be an understatement because even then, people will not open about it. There needs to be open minded discussions in the families about such topics so that even the male members of the family and the society become aware that it is gender-neutral crime and can happen to anyone, even them.
Just because men are expected to be tough and strong, doesn’t mean that they don’t face challenges that women face in their daily lives. While we talk about the rights of women, we shouldn’t ignore the rights of men. The goal is to empower the women, not neglect the other gender in order to uplift the other. Focusing only on one gender is injustice, unfair and violative of the fundamental rights of people under Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India.
With this questionnaire, it is evident that a higher percentage of people who answered the questionnaire believe that men and boys are also prone to sexual assault and are not immune to it, and that the perpetrator of sexual assault are not always only men, it can be other genders too. There are also people who still are not aware that rape and sexual assault of men and boys is not a myth but a reality.
“With regards to the existence of both male and female survivors, the US’s Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has estimated that 18.3% of American women and 1.4% of American men have experienced rape at some point in their lives. Both percentages are likely to be underestimated due to stigma attached to reporting the crime.” [https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Toxic%20Masculinity]
Movies and TV serials also play a huge role in making these stereotypes and normalizing sexual assault of men that people do not recognize this as sexual assault anymore. A woman undressing in front of man, commenting on his sex organ, touching him inappropriately, woman having forced sex with a man, etc are shown in the movies and serials as if these are normal things that a man would prefer, whereas, in reality, these things do make men uncomfortable and count as sexual assault. These things are normalized to such an extent that if a man faces such incidents and complains, he is told to enjoy it and gain pleasure from it. He is made fun of for complaining about getting a woman’s attention and her being sexual with him. Item songs are another example.
It is not debated that sexual assault and rape of men and boys exist. But there is nothing being done to find a solution as to how to stop it from further happening. The first thing that could be done is creating awareness that men and boys are raped and sexually assaulted too and that it is not a myth. Another way is to make gender-neutral laws which would protect the men and boys from sexual assault and rape and the stereotype that rape is patriarchal and can happen only to women and girls because men are strong and cannot be victims of such crimes. The toxic mentality of the society needs to be changed and the truth should be revealed to everyone and the sooner it is done, the better.
- Rape in India, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_India.
- Aamir Peerzada & Prem Boominathan, Breaking silence: an Indian man shares his rape ordeal, https://www.bbc.com/news/av/stories-44203667/breaking-silence-an-indian-man-shares-his-rape-ordeal, April 4, 2020.
- Rostrum’s Law Review, Volume V Issue I, DON’T BOYS GET RAPED? BREAKING THE SILENCE ON SEXUAL ABUSE OF THE MALE CHILD IN INDIA, April 30, 2018, https://journal.rostrumlegal.com/dont-boys-get-raped-breaking-the-silence-on-sexual-abuse-of-the-male-child-in-india/, March 20, 2020.
- Urban Dictionary, https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Toxic%20Masculinity, April 4, 2020.
- The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), About Sexual Violence, Rape Crisis England and Wales.
- Centre for Civil Society, India’s law should recognize that men can be raped too, https://ccsindia.org/indias-law-should-recognise-men-can-be-raped-too, March 25, 2020.
- The Guardian, The mindset is that boys are not raped: India ends silence on male sex abuse, (23 May, 2018), https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/23/indian-study-male-sexual-abuse-film-maker-insia-dariwala, March 20, 2020.
- The Times of India, Tamil Nadu teacher held for sexually assaulting her male students, (Mar 23, 2019), https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.timesofindia.com/city/chennai/tamil-nadu-teacher-held-for-sexually-assaulting-her-male-students/amp_articleshow/68530874.cms, March 29, 2020.
- The Indian Express, Pune: Teacher booked for ‘sexually assaulting’ Class IX male student, probe on, (November 23, 2019), https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-teacher-booked-for-sexually-assaulting-class-ix-male-student-probe-on-6132803/lite/, March 30, 2020.
- India Today, Students accuses principal, 3 teachers of sexual harassment, (December 16, 2019), https://www.indiatoday.in/amp/crime/story/students-accuses-principal-3-teachers-of-sexual-harassment-1628797-2019-12-16, March 31, 2020.
- India Today, Uttar Pradesh: 13-yr-old boy sodomised by four men in Shahjahanpur, (June 16, 2019), https://www.indiatoday.in/crime/story/uttar-pradesh-13-yr-old-boy-sodomised-by-four-men-in-shahjahanpur-1549861-2019-06-16, March 31, 2020.
- Navtej Singh Jauhar vs Union of India, (AIR 2018 SC 4321)
- Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Centre, University of Michigan, Male Survivors of Sexual Assault, https://sapac.umich.edu/article/53, March 31, 2020.
LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join: