Trigger warning: Mentions of sexual assault and abuse
“Mard ko dard nahi hota”.
The Indian upbringing of a man has created a stereotype that a man can never feel pain, and if he does, he is not a man. The same belief has led to people believing that a man can’t be raped or sexually assaulted because men are privileged to be men in a patriarchal society. Men are often or always believed to be the perpetrators and women are always considered as victims but it’s not necessary for every situation. Male sexual assault is a reality as bitter as female assault.
Indian stereotypes and upbringing ideas of men not feeling pain affect societal perception about sexual violence against men.
It’s high time when we should understand that if we talk about gender equality it’s about both men and women and no gender is circumscribed by ideas about who and how they should be.
Sexual assault or violence is any unwanted sexual act imposed on someone. But what does that mean anyway? It means if anyone grabs, kisses, touches, or tries to take off someone’s clothes without their consent, it’s sexual assault or violence.
The findings of the Johns Hopkins research confirm that sexual violence against men can take several forms. Broad categories include- anal and oral rape, genital torture, forced sterilization, gang rape, sexual slavery, and being compelled or forced to rape others. While these categories describe the physical forms that the violence can take, and the corresponding physical harms, they do not capture the mental and emotional harms that are caused at the same time.
To these can be added the psychosocial impacts of being physically unable to work, disrupted relationships with spouse and children, etc. From the above discussion, one thing is crystal clear. We urgently need to provide a well-organized mechanism to take action against sexual violence against men.
An article on Huffington Post described a bone-chilling account of cyberstalking faced by Vijay Nair. He was a Mumbai-based entrepreneur who faced a breathtakingly toxic situation of cyberbullying. It was started by someone anonymously sending abusive and explicit messages to Nayar on his WhatsApp, Twitter handles, and sometimes even on Gmail.
When Nayar broke his silence and inquired about it he got to know that it was a woman whom Nayar was acquainted with. If we are talking about sexual harassment or violence against men, cyberbullying can’t be ignored as it has various negative impacts on a person’s personal and professional life.
I would like to conclude this by providing some alternatives and measure to deal with the issue discussed above-
1. We need gender-neutral sexual harassment laws or complementary mechanisms in India to establish gender equality.
2. We need to build a culture when harassment is unlikely to take place.
3. Existing laws and services for women and men need to be further strengthened.
4. We should organize workshops for the students about sexual harassment in school so that they can raise their voice if they face such a situation ever.
5. We need to have a social environment where talking about male sexual assault and harassment can be considered normal.