By Waled Aadnan:
In a world where men are required to be masculine, strong, leaders and providers of their families, there are certain taboos that do not conform to that chauvinistic self-image. And as such, there are secrets so well kept that most would brush it off as yet another conspiracy theory. Yet men do get raped. Across the world, women continue to be the predominant victims of sexual crimes, but in the recent past, revelations have come to light that point to a tremendous underestimation of the magnitude of male rape.
There are some long-standing myths regarding the phenomenon of male rape, carefully kept away from general awareness by both perpetrator and victim, in a mutual bond of fear and shame. To cite a few, it is a myth that men can’t be sexually assaulted, a position taken by the Supreme Court of India in its 2009 order in the State of Rajasthan vs Hemraj case. As a result, in India, a woman can’t be charged under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which pertains to rape. In fact, men can, and are assaulted. Like with women, it happens in locations where the perpetrator thinks he can get away with it. One important reason why such cases do not get reported and the aggressor gets away with his crime is because most men do not think that they can be victims of sexual assault, unlike women. As such, the initial reaction from men facing an assault can be more of shock than of self-defense.
Moreover, it is also a myth that only gay menÂ rape, or that only gay men get raped. Although no statistics for the phenomenon exist in India, in the United States it is estimated that nearly 40% of male rapists are heterosexuals, as are majority of the victims. The fact reveals the underlying motive for rape, both male and female, to be more one of domination, violence and anger rather than sexual attraction or lust. It is no surprise as such that the incidence of child molestation is on the rise.
As an article in The Guardian last year revealed, a large number of men are victims of sexual assaults during wars, thereby showing that this instrument of terror used against women also extends to men. In her study Male Rape and Human Rights, Lara Stemple, of the University of California’s Health and Human Rights Law Project chronicles incidents of male sexual violence as a weapon of wartime or political aggression in Chile, Greece, Croatia, Iran, Kuwait, the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. The report states that twenty-one per cent of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention. In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped.
The social stigma and taboo faced by such victims is unnerving. In Uganda, Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project (RLP) helps displaced people from all over Africa work through their traumas. RLP’s gender officer Salome Atim has worked with so many male victims that she can often identify them from the manner in which they sit. “They tend to lean forward and will often sit on one buttock,” she tells The Guardian’s Will Storr in his report. “When they cough, they grab their lower regions. At times, they will stand up and there’s blood on the chair. And they often have some kind of smell.” In India, as in Africa, gender roles are strictly defined. A victim who comes out in the open is very likely to be the butt of jokes and a subject of ridicule. Most importantly, victims find out that confession often ensures that they lose the support of close friends and family. The general dilemma among wives whose husbands have been victimised is that if he can be raped, he is unfit to protect them. So it is seen that male rape victims often live out their pain in silence.
The legal framework in India does not provide much succour to the male and transsexual victims of sexual assault. It is only the infamous Section 377 of the IPC that continues to govern non-consensual penile, non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors. There is no provision to provide compensation to such victims. Moreover, the reaction of a typical Indian police station to a complaint by a man that he has been sexually assaulted is horrific just to imagine. In a country where most transsexuals are raped by the police themselves while in custody, hope is slim for a male victim. Add to that the general perception that only gay men get raped and the stigma that homosexuals continue to face in our country, and a recipe for disaster is prepared.
Image courtesy:Â http://jezebel.com/female-on-male-rape/
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