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Sexual Abuse of Men and the lack of Legal Infrastructure

BY – Shreya Garg

Sexual abuse refers to any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually they don’t want to do. It includes unwanted touching, rape or attempted rape, threatening someone into unwanted sexual activity or sexual contact with someone without their consent. (1) It can happen to anyone regardless of their age, sexual orientation or gender identity. However, we often overlook the fact that men too, are sexually abused, whether by women or by men. Men are coerced into pretending to be strong even when they are psychologically vulnerable. Also, it is a misrepresented fact that men cannot be sexually exploited.  They are always assumed to be the perpetrators and never the victims. The society has its obnoxious ways of traumatizing men and forcing them to behave masculine. Psychological aspects of sexual abuse include Post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). There are additional concerns for them due to societal notions of emotional strength and stoicism. Most victims are afraid to report their sexual abuse for fear of having their sexual identity called in question or having their reputation harmed. In the case of boys, they are mostly unable to report their abuser since they are either acquaintances or family. That’s why most of the cases go unreported. Sexual violence against men occur in a variety of settings, including homes, workplaces, schools, in police custody and prisons. It is vital that everyone realises that sexual abuse or violence is a gender neutral crime. Focusing on issues of one gender and ignoring issues of the other is unfair and unjust. Like other crimes, it demands the public’s and legislator’s attention,rather than blaming them for their misery. Many sexual abuse survivors have come forward to tell their stories. Lokesh Pawar, who was being sexually abused from the age of 6 to 15 by a relative. The day his abuser told him, “karde meri khushi ke liye,” he stood up to him and couldn’t take it anymore. He saw a rapist in him and not a relative. “Every such experience is painful and traumatic, but the healing begins the moment you realize that you are innocent and you have nothing to be ashamed of,” says Lokesh Pawar. (2)

Laws related to sexual violence in India

  • Sec 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: A man is said to commit rape who, has sexual intercourse with a woman against her will, without her consent, by coercion, misrepresentation or fraud or at a time when she has been intoxicated or duped, or is of unsound mind and in any case if she is under 18 years of age. (3). The Sec opens with the words “a man is said to commit rape” making it gender-biased because it explains that only women can be rape victims, while men can only be the perpetrators.

This shows that in India, there is no specific law for a man who rapes another man, or for a woman who rapes a man. At best, they can only be sodomised under Sec 377 of IPC. Men are always perceived as only perpetrators and rarely as victims.

  • Sec 354{A}-{D} of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: It defines the offence of sexual harassment. This sec, again, ignores sexual harassment of men. In India, there is no provision under which they can report their abuser. Most importantly, when it comes to offences like sexual abuse, both the victim and the perpetrator can be of either gender. This differs from the law set out in Sections 354{A}-354{D} and 375 of IPC, where the definition of offences of assault or criminal force, stalking commences with “Any man” or “A man”. (5)
  • Sec 377 of the Indian Penal Code: Sec 377 IPC criminalised all sexual acts “against the order of nature.” (6). According to the NCRB data, 1,347 cases were registered under Sec 377 in 2015, 60 % of which victims were children. (7). The SC in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India (8) held Sec 377 to be unconstitutional. But it remains in force relating to sex with minors, non-consensual sexual acts, bestiality.

Thus, male victims can only have protection under this Section and nowhere else. Boys under the age of 18 are protected under {POCSO} Act, 2012, a gender neutral law which recognises both boys and girls as victims of sexual violence. It defines different forms of sexual abuse of a child, prescribing strict punishments for the same. (9) There’s no reason why sexual abuse of a male youngster should be regarded differently than one of an adult guy.

Laws prevalent in different Countries                                        

In the US, FBI’s Uniform Crime Report{UCR} defines Forcible Rape as “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The definition was redefined in 2012 and is gender neutral as it includes any gender of the victim as well as the perpetrator. (10). Whereas in the UK, only a man can commit rape and not woman because the penetration has to be with a penis. But both men and women can be raped. (11). Northern Ireland also changed its rape laws to recognise the rape of men. Sexually assaulting men is a crime in China after the 2015 Amendment to the criminal law. Now men can press charges against women. (12).

Conclusion

The only reason that men can’t seek justice is that there are no specific laws that penalize sexual abuse of men in any way. Male victims’ complaints are not heard, thus they try to hide, resist or deny their abuse. The idea that women can sexually harass men is still unthinkable in Indian society. Legislators should make amendments to the law and give male sexual abuse equal consideration. In comparison with the developed nations, India still has a long way to go.  Art 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees “Right to Equality” (13) and Art 15 declares that the citizens shall not be discriminated on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. (14) So why there is still lack of legal infrastructure in cases of sexual violence against men. Gender neutral laws are desperately needed. The Law Commission of India in its 172nd Report after considering all aspects had recommended that sexual offences should be made gender neutral. The Criminal Law {Amendment} Bill, 2019 is a positive step forward because it aims to effectively protect the constitutional rights of all persons vulnerable to sexual exploitation including men and transgender. (15). 

References: 

1. {PDF} What is sexual abuse, Love is respect, https://www.loveisrespect.orpdf/What_Is_Sexual_Abuse.pdf

2. Lokesh Pawar, I am a sexual abuse survivor. No, I am not a woman, The Print, April 18, 2021, https://theprint.in/opinion/i-am-a-sexual-abuse-survivor-no-i-am-not-a-woman/641099/

3. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Sec 375

4. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Sec 354{A}

5. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Sections 354{A} to 354{D}

6. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Sec 377

7. Deeptiman Tiwary, Children victims in 60 percent cases under section 377: NCRB data, October 21, 2016, https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/rape-section-377-indian-penal-code-ncrb-date-pocso-children-rape-3033639/

8. AIR 2018 SC 4321, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/168671544/

9. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

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