Amid all the din and clamor surrounding crimes against women in India, a silent minority goes unseen and unthought of: the men who have been abused. Yes, the very same. In a country, which is still inherently patriarchal, it is hard to think of a male being sexually abused. However, the fact remains, that it is a truth. A truth for almost 175 men who have been kidnapped and abducted for the purpose of sexual intercourse, according to NCRB data from 2009 to 2012. This is leaving out the unreported crimes, and those against boys below 18 years of age.
Male sexual abuse has always been happening. In children especially, boys are just as vulnerable as girls. The Government of India published the “Study on Child Abuse: India 2007,” which found that 53.22% of children reported having faced sexual abuse (sample survey of 12,447 children across 13 states of India), among which, 52.94% were boys. Under-reporting in these cases is particularly usual, as families tend to hush up these cases. Class differences don’t really matter much here: In a 2006 study conducted by nongovernmental organizations Save the Children and Tulir on 2,211 schoolchildren from Chennai, “the prevalence of sexual abuse in upper and middle class was found to be proportionately higher than in lower and lower-middle class”. Clearly, education isn’t much of a safeguard. Abuse in childhood leaves lasting scars, and manifests itself in symptoms like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and adversely impacts the individual as an adult. And in a patriarchal society like ours, where a male is expected to fit a certain criteria, it will only alienate the grown up victim further, as he is subjected to more insensitive jibes and opinions, impacting his self esteem and confidence.
The situation for men above 18 years of age is not very different. According to the NCRB, since 2009, more than 995 men have been abducted for the purpose of forced marriages, while 115 men were reported to have been kidnapped for prostitution. And again, this is leaving out the many more unreported crimes. The homosexual and bisexual community is particularly at risk, because while globalization may have given them the courage to come out of the closet, regressive mindsets have not kept pace, relying on bullying and abuse to keep them ‘ in their place’. In cases where the victim gathers enough courage to report the crime, the police too, mainly treat being gay as just an aberration, and openly declines or coaxes the complainant to let it be. In Kerala, 26-year-old homosexual Vinodhan,was 18 when he was gang raped by six drunken men, and he still suffers psychological trauma when he meets strangers.Last year In Ghaziabad, goons of his girlfriend’s father, raped a male student of Delhi University. Then, the girl’s father set dogs on the sodomised boy, rubbed salt and chillies into his wounds and left him to suffer. These are the realities of these men.
The Indian judiciary is not equipped to deal with these cases. In the Indian Penal Code, the only gender-neutral sexual abuse law in India is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which recognizes that both child victims as well as perpetrators can be either male or female. After the public backlash against the government in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya gang rape case, when the amendments to the Criminal Law Act were being discussed in 2013, some activists had lobbied for gender neutral laws. “But it did not work out that way, and we now have laws that indicate the opposite – that women simply cannot be sexual abusers,” said Aishwarya Bhati, an advocate-on-record at the Supreme Court.
Globally, male sexual abuse has been acknowledged as a reality. In USA, it is estimated that 1 in 10 males on an average is a victim of sexual assault or abuse.In 2010, the largest survey of its type in the world – the US Centre for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey– found that the rates of men being forced to penetrate women over the previous year were identical to the rates of women reporting being raped. Globally respected and renowned talk show host Oprah Winfrey used her program to bring this issue into the limelight. Four days ago, in New York, a 24-year-old female gym teacher had to face rape charges, for the crime done by her on her male student. In Australia, Canada and South Africa, laws against rape and sexual offences are gender neutral.
The important thing is to make people aware, and to make them leave their outdated ideas on sexuality, which can only start happening if we start talking. I will leave you with a response to a post that asked why was it necessary to speak out in public about being abused.
“Because the cultural silence and shame about this topic is a major contributing factor to the prevalence of sexual abuse and assault. We don’t know how widespread a problem it is because we are conditioned that these things shouldn’t be spoken of publicly. Which leaves each survivor to believe we are alone in.
Hitesh Shetty is in his second year, B.Tech in Biotech, JIIT, Noida. Apart from hoping to find something on a microscopic level which can make the world a better place, he has a keen interest in reading just about anything (apart from study related matter). Very into football, and can still outrun you if he wants. Writing for him, is more than just a pastime, sometimes the answer to a question, sometimes therapy itself. Believes that standing up for something you believe in is what makes you stand out from the crowd.