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The Less Talked Gender (on Abuse and Harassment)

Living in a patriarchy society, Indians seems to be overburdened by the patriarchal pride to an extent, that even the most focused and preferred gender is being ignored and asked to shut down when it comes to sexual harassment or abuse. Incidents of sexual violence or harassment where the victim’s gender is male, are just treated in our society either as a myth, as a gossip food or a matter of shame while ridiculing the victim. In order to apply Article 14[1]of the Indian Constitution[2], and give women a safe and impartial platform, today we can openly talk about critical issues such as the need of availability of sanitary napkins, protection of girl child, protection from rape and harassment. But yet when it comes to men and their safety from rape and harassment, we find a gap even in the legal system of the country. In fact, it becomes a daunting task to even start the conversation about the forbidden topic.

But once, when the ice is decided to be shattered, all sort stories can be heard. Stories about a relative asking favor in returns of some candies; an elder cousin, teaching an unusual, painful game; a teacher professor or warden blackmailing for underperformance or some added privileges; a middle-aged woman feeling the private parts in a crowded vehicle or road, or a servant using the innocence for satisfying his own shameful act. It is seen that such cases are more sympathetically dealt with when gender is a female, but there is a long way to go when it is about another gender, the male.

Legally, after the striking down of Section 377[3] of the Indian Penal Code[4], which covered the sensitive topic of unnatural sex, men are not even recognized the sector, which can be raped. As Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code[5], considers the victim to be “only” female when it comes to heinous crime such as rape. All sort of complexities are witnessed in the run of justice when the roles are reversed as if compared, it is seen that there are lesser visible signs of abuse when a male is abused and even lesser ways when one needs to prove the incident. Section 498A[6]of Indian Penal Code has been a torturing provision for many, because of false dowry cases. False rape cases on the pretext of one or other have been rising since the new amendment in rape law in 2013 in India. In a study conducted by the Hindu regarding the rape cases brought to trail in Delhi in the year 2013, it was found that most of such cases were consensual sex criminalized by parents.[7]

Thankfully, Protection of Children From Sexual Offences[8] (POCSO) Act,2012, has tried to bring a gender-neutral approach, when it comes to a male child being abused, but still, the sector which has outgrown the age bar of a child remains unprotected and harassed. As a welcoming step, The UGC (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual harassment of women employees and students in higher educational institutions) Regulations notified in May 2016, sexual harassment is gender-neutral; male students are vulnerable to many forms of sexual harassment like their women and transgender counterparts, but yet the successful implementation requires decades.

The false pride on masculinity seems to be deep-rooted to a level, where socially it is thought that no emotional damage is done even when abused. Few even deny the existence of such abuse, as per them the stronger sex, eventually ends up enjoying the act. Thanks to the series like F.R.I.E.N.D.S, where when Joey complains about being wrongly touched by his tailor over the years, for measurement, we have learned to laugh over such issues. Even the Indian Bollywood industry, over and over portrays that it’s okay and in fact comical to be harassed when it comes to the male sector, for example, Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya. But again we should be thankful for movies like Aiytraj, and ‘B. A Pass’ that now at leastwe know that our society is dangerously caught in the web of child abuse, and there is existence to male abuse.

It is sad to see that with our progressive step towards equality, we are creating a world, where the society automatically passes the judgment in case of rape or dowry. Though several Indian courts judgments have noted this issue and suggested reforms; for example, the recent ruling on adultery and more conscious steps indicated to the police in dowry complaint cases. Still, there seems a long way to go to break this silence, as many instances now ends up to a social media memes or as a funny story to be discussed over tea.

In order to understand the present scenario when it comes to male sexual abuse and harassment, it was found that the only reliable survey to rely on, about the statistics of India, dates back to 2007[9], which was studied keeping in mind 2005 data collected by a Delhi based Non-Government Organization, Prayas, on the basis of data from only 13 states of the country. It stated that more than 54 % of the sexually abused children were male children. Since then there is no record of another survey. It is important to note that during the year 2005, India was home of only 19% of the world’s children, but now as per 2011 census, it is a home for 39%, and since it is already 2019, the numbers of both the children and the abused male children sector can be alarming.

Even the 2007 survey doesn’t include the male section, who is more than 24 years of age; this leaves uncertainty in abuse cases especially at the workplace, when it comes to the working sector of men. The Indian law provides guidelines regarding harassment at the workplace[10]; but the preamble of the guidelines itself exclude men from the possibility of being the victim.

As per the 2007 survey, it is well established now that, it is young children, of the age group 5-12 year group, who are at risk most. Significant findings regarding abuse and harassment of the male child, the following observations, were made in the report:
# Out of every three children, two were physically abused, more than 53% faced one or other form of sexual abuse and every second child was reported facing emotional abuse.
# 69% of total children were physically abused in the 13 surveyed states, out of which 54.68% were boys. In cases of sexual and emotional abuse, the equal percentage was witnessed among boys and girls.
# Most of them due to societal pressure did not report the matter to anyone.
# In cases of sexual abuse, around 50% abusers were people who were known to the children.

If we compare the Indian scenario from the world, it is seen that worldwide, two in every four adults were physically abused as children.WHO[11]estimated that the year 2002 itself, witnessed deaths of almost 53,000 child deaths due to homicide. As per the recent report on child abuse, WHO declared that approximate 17 million male children under the age of 18, have experienced either sexual violence or forced sexual intercourse[12].
As of 1998, 2.78 million men in the U.S. had been victims of attempted or completed rape and about 3% of American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
The WHO, after analyzing laws and norms of 58 countries, even came up with a common definition of child abuse and child maltreatment, as "all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.”
But yet the gap lies when it comes to studying the adults and their relation to being sexually or physically abused.

On studying the worldwide trend, which is estimates of physical abuse from the surveys based on population, it can be deduced that the gravity of this issue is just not limited to India. For example, as per a 1995 study in the United States, the parents physically abused 49 per 1000 children, to discipline them. Similar instances were reported when countries like Egypt, Chile, Ethiopia, and Romania were surveyed. One of the reports of WHO, mentions the disparity among the results of the survey when the mode of collection of information was changed[13]. It was found, for example in the case of Romania, that when parents were asked about that whether their ward was ever physically abused, the result was only 0.1%, but when their children were asked the same, the result shot up to 9.1%. The probable reason can be that children especially the male sections due to several social stigmas, over time try to keep the occurrence of such disheartening incidents only to themselves.

Though the current law is not full filing but the Indian society is well aware of the male sexual harassment as compared to countries like UAE[14], Qatar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka where male sexual harassment is an alien’s concept. However, India lacks the laws, facilities, social rehabilitation as compared to western countries like the United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, etc. where laws are gender neutral, govt. is more active. There is a similar trend of less reporting of such cases across the globe irrespective of the economic status of the countries, their social fabric, religion, and color of the skin. The underreporting of these crimes can be attributed to the masculine load, social strata, and dignity of the victims. The Indian social fabric, though it knows and talks of male sexual harassment, still lacks the social acceptance of the victim and to support the victims of such crimes to lead a normal, dignified life. Nevertheless, the current laws are inefficient to tackle the problem entirely, but the parliamentary debate of making laws gender-neutral gives a hope that in the coming near future India will be having more stringent laws to tackle matters of male sexual harassment.

There are several major areas for action that need to beaddressed by governments, researchers, health care and social workers, the teaching and legal professions, nongovernmental organizations and other groups with interest in preventing child abuse and neglect. These areas include:

1. Better assessment and monitoring: There is a need for better evaluation and control as the data present is outdated and old. Since 2007, the population has increased, and India has witnessed several changes both legally and socially.
2. Policy development: Governments should come up with more gender-neutral policies and assist local agencies in implementing effective protection services for the male gender as well.
3. Need for more gender neutral laws, with strong misuse clause: Most of the laws related to abuse or harassment excludes male as the
4. Awareness Campaigns: Awareness Campaigns should be conducted to break the silence and make both adult and children more aware. There should be awareness to be more sympathetic and to get rid of social stigmas that keep the male sector away from expressing their fears.
5. Need for research: There is a need for research in this field such as better ways of disciplining the kids; means through which males can be more expressive when it comes to critical issues is required.
6. Distribution of literature in schools and colleges to bring awareness will also be a welcoming step.

[1] Right to equality
[2] The Constitution of India, 1949
[3] Unnatural offenses
[4] Indian Penal Code, 1860
[5] Rape
[6] Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty
[7] Rukmini Shrinivasan. The Hindu
[9] Child Abuse: INDIA 2007
[10] Vishakha Guidelines, AIR 1997 SC 3011
[11] World Health Organization/ Child Maltreatment
[14] United Arab Emirates

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