Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!
I chanced upon this case of two male friends raping an 18-year-old boy, who then died by committing suicide. The matter was reported to the police, and the case was registered as ‘unnatural sex’. All the more, the boy couldn’t take what happened and was found hanging from the ceiling. The story is a cruel awakening of the fact that patriarchy doesn’t only affect women but all genders. What worse is that Indian law doesn’t even acknowledge men as victims of rape.
The boy cannot take in what happened also raises concerns against the taboo that exists in our society that prohibits men from showing normal human emotions. Toxic masculinity sets unrealistic demands on men and forces them to always present themselves as ‘alpha males’. This is concerning because they eventually grow up not knowing how to deal with their feelings or emotions. The consequence of this is far more devastating when issues like depression come creeping in. What good is a law that can’t punish those who break it?
To say, our Indian society has ‘modernized’ since independence. But did we in an actual sense? The concept of modernization is in itself a broad spectrum rather than perceiving it as a single line. We are still not rational towards such social evils and our judgment in these often gets clouded with traditional mainstream thought patterns. Society is almost united in its opinion that men can’t get raped. Sexual violence is still a concept that hasn’t found any buyers.
Whenever a man is sexually violated, he is often dismissed as ‘unmanly’ not only by society in general but even by himself. This all is because of some conventional thought patterns which are so deep-rooted that don’t empower men to be soft. Moreover, there is this stereotypical concept surrounding us, that a man always enjoys sex.
Much to my surprise, Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, clearly states that rape is something that only a man can do to a woman and the idea that men can be sodomized but not raped. The law does not lay out any difference between consensual and non-consensual sex between male adults.
It is high time that our society starts accepting the reality that another man or a woman can inflict sexual violence on a man. It has been long since no one has challenged social and stereotypical constructs. Rape law must recognize male and transgender victimization too. These laws were actually brought in to act as a catalyst for an equal society. It would definitely be a social failure if we deny the sheer existence of rape and sexual offenses against other genders. Moreover, it’s disheartening, that even if we talk about the amendment in the laws, it actually takes years for it to actually happen. It is our responsibility to help rekindle a society that is conducive for male victims to discuss their sticky situation without them feeling any remorse about it.