Sexual assault on men: Crime that is a reality
It’s been more than two years since the December 16 gangrape incident shook Delhi. The incident saw citizens take to the streets protesting against the failure of police, government and society. Would the same people protest against the collective apathy of society had the victim been a man? Writes Sowmya S
Last week, a 41-year-old auto-rickshaw driver allegedly in south Delhi to escape a woman's attempt to sexually assault him.
The driver later told the police that the woman had first asked him to drop her at Arun Nagar, borrowed Rs 300 from him to purchase a few items on the way and promised that she would repay the money once they reached her home.
After reaching the woman's home, the woman, the driver said, invited him inside and offered a glass of water.
She had then allegedly locked the door and tried to sexually assault him while her friend, an African woman, filmed the ‘act’. He then escaped by jumping out of the balcony and ended up fracturing his legs.
When this story appeared in newspapers, a male friend observed that the driver could probably be lying.
One evening in January, I was at the GTB Nagar metro station with a male friend. We were at the ticket counter, part of a long queue.
The queue finally thinned after ten minutes and when it was my turn, I purchased them.
I walked away from the queue and waited for my friend. He purchased his tickets and walked towards me with a frown on his face. He looked rather angry.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
“You know the old lady who was standing behind me? She’s an evil woman! She took advantage of the queue, pressed her body against mine and felt me up!”
“What the hell! Why didn’t you yell at her?”
“No, I can’t! She’ll be embarrassed! And no one would believe me anyway!”
It’s been more than two years since the December 16 gangrape incident shook Delhi. The incident saw citizens take to the streets protesting against the failure of police, government and society.
Would the same people protest against the collective apathy of society had the victim been a man?
Would they have called for stringent laws against such crimes had the victim --- who battled for life before succumbing to the numerous injuries --- been a man?
An even more important question is: Will the police believe any man if he files a complaint against a woman, claiming that he had been sexually assaulted by her?
But the most basic question is: Would the male victim actually tell his family and the police that he was sexually assaulted?
Several cases of men being raped go unreported and the Centre has taken no efforts to publish data on male rapes. In such a situation, it is extremely hard for people to believe that men can actually be raped and women, apart from men, are capable of committing this heinous crime.
However, according to a 2010 Economic Times-Synovate survey, 19% of the 527 men surveyed in several metros of the country claimed that they had faced sexual harassment at work.
According to the survey, 51% of the respondents in Bangalore had been sexually harassed, while 31% and 28% of those surveyed in Delhi and Hyderabad respectively claimed that they had faced sexual harassment.
A report by The Guardian in 2013 said men in England faced sexual harassment as well. The report said out of the estimated 78,000 rape victims in England and Wales between 2009 and 2012, about 9,000 were men.
In a society where the debate on gender equality is gathering steam, is it not important to think of men as potential victims too?
After the Delhi gang rape, a few sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure that dealt with sexual offences, among other crimes, were amended to include a new set of sexual offences and harsher punishment for the perpetrators.
However, none of the lawmakers considered it pertinent to protect men from sexual offences.
Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code does not even include men under the category of rape victims.
You might think Section 377 would offer a ray of hope, as it contains provisions for sodomy, but it applies only if the accused is a man.
The result: there’s no legal framework in the country where a woman can be prosecuted for committing sexual offences against a man.
Unless we accept that men can also be victims of sexual offences and women are also capable of perpetrating those crimes, we can never truly fight the menace of sexual offence.
Because denying justice to a male rape victim and letting a woman perpetrator go scot free is as much a crime as rape itself.
(The views expressed by the author are personal. She tweets @sowswamin)