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We Need Gender Neutral Rape Laws Because Men Too Can Be Victims Of Sexual Assault

Posted: July 7, 2020

A group of volunteers writing to Union Minister of Law & Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad to make rape laws gender neutral is a sign for a better future.

In a recent letter to the Union Minister of Law Ravi Shankar Prasad, a group of volunteers requested to amend the criminal law against male rape. The letter written by Ravina Raj Kohli (citizen), Dr Prof Vikram Singh (former DGP UP Police) and Ashok GV (advocate) asks the Minister to amend the laws in a manner to protect the male victims of rape and sexual assault. 

Further, the trio cited the recent assault of two men by policemen in Santhankulam, Tamil Nadu as an example. 

According to a report published in News 24 online, the letter read ‘We are a collective of conscientious citizens of India who have organised ourselves under the name of ‘NoRapeIndia.’ As a group of volunteers committed to the cause of preventing sexual violence and committed to the cause of the rights of victims thereof, we are writing this letter to you to address a glaring gap in the law namely, that no remedy is provided to adult male victims of rape in India.’ 

The letter urges to make amendments in Section 375, Sections 354A, 354B, 354C and 354D of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to make rape and sexual harm, in general, a gender-neutral offence.

In the letter, the trio has stated that by making the act of rape a gendered crime, we are inducing the patriarchal stereotypes that men are invincible to sexual harm. This, in one way or another is further helping perpetuate the rape culture in our society.

Here’s what the existing law says

In legal terms, Section 375 of the IPC defines rape as ‘the act of sex by a man with a woman if it was done against her will or without her consent.’ A further amendment also says, the clause of sex when her consent is obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested, in fear of death or of hurt, is also classified as rape. 

Adding to that, sex with or without a woman’s consent, when she is under 18 years is considered rape. However, sexual intercourse by a man with his wife without her consent is not considered rape, until she is under 15 years of age. 

To sum up, for the IPC rape is something that only a man can do to a woman. At the same time, if the woman is married to the man, the act is not considered rape, whether he has her consent or not. 

According to Indian laws, men cannot be raped at all. They can only be ‘sodomised,’ which is covered under Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code. It is the same Act that criminalised homosexuality and then legalised it in 2018. 

To add to it, ‘sodomy’ is also how male rape is reported in the media. An example of this would be the 2014 case in Muzaffarnagar where a teacher was among four people booked for sodomy

Men are raped too! 

With the definition of rape by IPC being limited to a crime committed by men, it’s impossible to report rape against men.

A man in our country cannot legally be raped. This very concept also stems out the patriarchal notion of ‘men enjoy sex’ and ‘they cannot be raped,’ which is very problematic. We need to understand that rape is a crime which is often related to the concept of power and dominance.

A person who feels superior to someone else can assault the other person just because they are in power. In such a scenario, people often commit the crime, irrespective of gender. 

Thus, women, whether in a position of professional, physical or emotional power are just as capable of sexual assaulting men are other men are!

The taboo around male rape

The idea that men don’t get raped stems out of the toxic masculinity prevalent in our society. This is the mentality that prevents men from showing their emotions.

It essentially forces them believe that they have to ‘enjoy’ any kind of sexual advances made towards them or they are not considered ‘manly enough.’ And that is one of the reasons why many male victims of sexual abuse stay quiet.

Toxic masculinity forces upon society the idea that men are not vulnerable, that only women are. This, in essence, implies that men are the ones who use their power to exploit women. Hence, propagating the idea that getting sex is the right of a man. 

Several reports suggest that this taboo that prevents men from showing emotions is probably the reason why anger issues and violence is so prevalent in men. This mentality is also the reason why many men inflict violence on women and children.

In fact, according to a study by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, male survivors of childhood sexual assault are more likely to inflict violence. It also says, they are more prone to be violent towards women and children. 

In a study conducted by filmmaker Insia Dariawala, it was concluded that men are victims of sexual abuse. She conducted an online survey on 160 Indian men and investigated the links unresolved male trauma and its impact later on in life. The survey showed that 71 percent of respondents were sexually abused as children.

Owing to this, in 2018, Union Minister Menaka Gandhi amended legislation to make the protection of children from sexual abuse gender-neutral for the first time. 

Why is the amendment important

On the one hand, far more men are indeed perpetrators of sexual violence than women. It is also true that victims of sexual violence are more often women than men. But it doesn’t mean that men don’t get raped at all. 

Today, with the increase in people’s knowledge and understanding, more people are speaking up about the young men being raped or assaulted. While the taboo still exists, some men are openly talking about that atrocity that they went through.

People like Siddhant Talwar are creating a space for men to talk about sexual assault are a prime example of the change. Hence, it has become important to amend the rape law. After all, treating the crime as a crime and ensuring equality is what feminism stands for. 

This amendment will make sure that people know that men too are raped. Which will hence bring about a societal change. It will be a step towards creating an environment where victims of sexual assault, irrespective of gender, can speak up about their trauma without being judged. 

Picture credits: YouTube and Pexels

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