Patriarchy Isn’t Ready To Believe That Men Are Sexually Assaulted

The Reality Of Child Sexual Abuse In India

“None! None of the incidents do I remember from my childhood – I don’t remember the circumcision ceremony, nor can I recollect the details of our house being gutted in a fire. What I remember is a surreal marshy land, broad daylight, a polythene bag containing crumbs of carrots, a tall hairy-chested man spitting phlegm into the posterior opening of my alimentary canal and trying to push his genital organ into me.”

“I think, I was of Hasan’s age (when he was molested in “The Kite Runner”). I can vividly draw the details of my garments, my hair and the pain I endured throughout the ordeal. Flared bell bottom pants, a tattered shirt, oily hair. He offered me a bag of carrots, I got hold of it. The moment I clicked my foot away, he grabbed my shoulders, shoved me into an arid canal and started pulling my trousers. I didn’t cry! I was too young to make any sense out of it, my reflexes didn’t work.”

“It won’t hurt! Like that doctor who is ready to drill a needle into your body says to give you false hope, he said to me.”

“He rubbed his organ against me for a while and then ordered me to not to tell anybody.”

“That person is still alive and I fear his sight more than that of God’s.”

This dreadful incident has dominated Gulzar’s life. Even though he is busy with studies these days, the disturbing episode still haunts him. Every nightmare is a manifestation of that horror.

A minor or a child can never display compliance in forced sexual activities – end of the debate! The perverted mindset of a sexual abuser manipulates and plays upon the innocence of a child and tries to satiate sexual thirst. Committing such a deplorable crime against a child who has just learnt to spell letters leaves long-lasting psychological effects on the child’s memory.

While looking specifically at child sexual abuse survivors, the Indian government in 2007 found out that, of the surveyed children who reported experiencing severe sexual abuse (including rape or sodomy), 57.3% were boys and 42.7% were girls.

Incidents like this are common in boarding school hostels where sexual deprivation among boys can lead to more disastrous situations. Sexual assault at a tender age creates a deathless memory, which parasitises a healthy brain, thereby destabilising the normal course of life.

“Sexual abuse is also a secret crime, one that usually has no witness. Shame and secrecy keep a child from talking to siblings about the abuse, even if all the children in a family are being sexually abused. In contrast, if a child is physically or emotionally abused, the abuse is likely to occur in front of the other children in the family, at least some of the time. The physical and emotional abuse becomes part of the family’s explicit history. Sexual abuse does not.” – Renee Fredrickson in “Repressed Memories: A Journey to Recovery from Sexual Abuse.

The Prevalence Of Male Rape In India

More recently, the Delhi-based Center for Civil Society found that approximately 18% of the adult Indian men surveyed reported being coerced or forced to have sex. Of those, 16% claimed a female perpetrator and 2% pointed fingers at a male perpetrator.

The perpetrators of this crime are convicted under section 377 of the IPC, India’s recently reinstated anti-sodomy law. Unfortunately, this law doesn’t consider ‘sodomy’ as an actual act of rape, nor does it specify the difference between consensual and non-consensual sexual acts between two male adults.

Though the official data can be a bit conflicting, males in India do suffer from such heinous crimes and a lot of them remain unreported.

Should the word ‘rape’ in news headlines always lead us to assume unlawful sexual activity by a man with a woman? What if a male sexually assaults a member of his gender – isn’t that criminal? What if a man molests another man? And what if a boy is sodomised by another boy?

Or is our patriarchal system not ready to buy this truth: men too can be raped!

Men don’t shed tears, let alone whine about such disgraceful events! Men are born strong, brave, and can’t be hurt – this is what they have been told. Men don’t cry either, do they?

How will a mother concede to the possibility that his son was just sexually assaulted when she has always taught him to be ‘like a man’ and shun the practice of shedding tears on issues as grave as death itself? Let us not even talk about the probable reaction of the father here!

Even though the legal system has received complaints of rapes against women as a ‘new normal’ over the past decades, a male rape survivor still can’t vindicate his pain. He should bear it till his legs are in the grave! No one will believe him and the medical evaluation will declare it a farce. In fact, he can also be accused of perjury! Police will accuse him of false accusations! It will bring gloom and doom to his life.

He is a man and men don’t complain – that too about rape, do they? Impossible!

How grave would this be for a man who discloses his identity as a rape survivor, that too in a society where men usually don’t complain about ‘serious matters’? Will he be seen as a victim of the horrendous crime, or would this event simply be a blow to his ‘patriarchal identity’?

Men too are sexually assaulted. It’s just that they aren’t ready to let the world know about it. In fact, there are innumerable stories of rape survivors among men out there in the world. However, people reservedly carry its horrors because of the fear of reprisal, of being considered a lesser man, losing manhood and of being branded as effeminate! How will society look at him, when he has failed to protect himself?

The updated definition of United States Justice Department has made this crime a ‘gender neutral’ crime: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” In India, however, rape is still viewed as something which only a man can do to a woman.

The fact that male rape cases are not reported in India makes it easier to turn our back on these events. Does that mean that they are non-existent? The menace is still there – unreported and not talked about.