Stigma And Laws In India Say A Lot About How We See Male Rape

IJMEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #ViolenceNoMore, a campaign by International Justice Mission and Youth Ki Awaaz to fight against daily violence faced by marginalised communities. Speak out against systemic violence by publishing a story here.

What happened on 16th December 2012 in South Delhi, sent shock waves across India and the world. Nirbhaya, which means ‘the fearless’, was what the female victim of this violent gang rape came to be known as in the media and subsequently, this incident and the name stirred nationwide protests and there was an uproar in the Parliament. There was widespread demand for ensuring the safety of women and anger erupted across the country against the inaction and ineffectiveness of the government and law machinery in stopping this menace.

Following this incident and protests, very soon, the Justice Verma Committee was constituted by the central government to suggest amendments to the criminal law to deter sexual assaults. As a result, the death sentence was introduced as the maximum penalty for cases in which rape assault results in the death of the victim. In addition to this, fast-track courts were introduced for dealing with rape prosecutions as a response to this incident. Yearly memorial services have been taking place in several places across India every December in remembrance of Nirbhaya. As previously pointed out by many, the death penalty hasn’t evidently stopped violent or fatal sexual assaults from happening. The gruesome Kathua gang rape incident that took place in January 2018 is a testament to that. And it resulted in a national outcry as well.

While it is only fair that these incidents solicited an explosive response from the media, civil society and politicians, all sort of sexual assaults on males are reduced to a small column in the second page of a newspaper. Public outcry is eerily absent and as a result, there is no mounting pressure on governments to address this issue as seen in previously mentioned cases. This paltry response to male sexual abuse is because of the popular belief that men (and boys) can’t be raped and that it isn’t as harrowing or traumatizing as in the case of women. It also stems from the fact that Indian law doesn’t recognize or acknowledge that men can be raped. The only role Section 375 of Indian Penal Code accords men is the role of the perpetrator of rape.

On 16th June 2018, a 17-year-old boy had to endure the sexual assault by five men in Ghaziabad and a foreign object was inserted into his rectum. It made it to the newspapers but did not raise any red flags among civil society. A case was registered under different sections of IPC and POCSO Act. While it was possible to register the case as the victim is a minor, POCSO doesn’t extend similar protection to men over 18 years of age. The POCSO Act, until a few months ago was only applicable in the case of a girl child, but since May 2018 it was given gender-neutral status following a judgement by Delhi High Court, thus making it possible for male child victims to get justice.

The conversation surrounding adult male sexual abuse is harder as there is a tremendous amount of shame associated with admitting the occurrence of rape. As a result, there is no dependable data that shows the number of rape instances among adult men in India.

In October 2018, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court by an NGO seeking gender-neutral rape laws that would also acknowledge adult males and transgender survivors of sexual violence. This plea argued that the current rape laws under IPC Section 375 are in violation of Article 14 (Right to equality), 15 (Prohibition of discrimination based on sex, caste, race, religion, etc.)  and 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.  But following this, in a disappointing turn of events, in November, SC refused to hear the petition and Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said that SC can’t interfere at this stage and it was up to the legislature to look into this issue.

In addition to the legal and legislative paradigm in which this discussion is situated, it is also important to understand the role of female rights groups who have fiercely opposed the gender-neutral definition of rape. They argue that the gender-neutral laws will make female victims more vulnerable due to the possibility of counter complaints by the perpetrators of assault. Given this scenario, it is impossible to discuss male and transgender sexual assaults in India independent of the socio-legal mechanism put in place to address female sexual assaults. Moreover, in the wake of partial striking down of Section 377 by Supreme Court in September 2018, several questions remain unanswered. While gay consensual relations have been legalized, IPC Section 375 does not address the issue of non-consensual sexual assaults by members of the same sex, as it only recognizes females as victims and males as perpetrators. Thus, there exists a gaping hole in the present definition as it doesn’t consider the scenario where the perpetrator and the victim are both women or men.

So, it is increasingly evident that Section 375 doesn’t reflect the changing laws and isn’t up to date. Its discriminatory nature (based on sex and sexuality), its inapplicability in different cases and the archaic tone that it exudes make a compelling argument for the gender-neutral definition of rape. But, sound arguments alone can’t bring about this major legislative change. This can only be made possible if this troubling silence surrounding male sexual assault is broken and the myth that men can’t be raped is debunked in popular narrative.

What policy reforms do you think would help eliminate instances of daily violence and improve access to justice in India? Send us your suggestions and we’ll take a manifesto to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Let’s spark the change together!

Write a response

Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below