Author: Mridula Singh, Student at University of Allahabad.
This is a topic which is fairly important but is not given enough significance in our society i.e. gender-equal law or gender-neutral laws. In India the concept of sexual harassment and assault is only linked to women. According to the narrow thinking of most people a man can never be the victim of such crimes. In the past few years we have seen a rise in sexual crimes against men. Only a few of such cases are registered firstly because the family of the victim does not even acknowledge that such a thing could ever happen and secondly they are not ready to accept and put it out in the society that their son, a man is the victim of a sexual crime. Not only this but sometimes the victims themselves do not wish to report such crimes because it would be a blow to their pride as a man. In addition to this even if a man who has been victim to such a crime gathers his courage to report the assault he would not get the remedy he wants because his case won’t come under the criteria recognized by the Indian laws dealing with sexual crimes as their language does not recognize any gender other than women. Let’s see the various laws dealing with sexual crimes in India:
INDIAN PENAL CODE
Indian Penal Code deals with crimes of sexual nature from Section 375 to Section 377. The language of Article 375 which is rape is as follows :
Rape.—A man is said to commit “rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the following descriptions:—
(First) — Against her will.
(Secondly) —Without her consent.
(Thirdly) — With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.
(Fourthly) —With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
(Fifthly) — With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.
(Sixthly) — With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age. (Seventhly) — When she is unable to communicate consent.
Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape.
From the language of this section it is explicitly clear that it only recognises women as the victim of rape and there is no scope for men much less for a gender which is hardly recognized by the society like the transgender.
The only section under which sex between males is even recognized is Section 377 i.e. Unnatural Offences and even that because it is against the order of nature and not because of the accused has committed sexual assault or harassment on men.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT
Even in Domestic violence act there has been no protection provided to men as Section 2(a) of the act defines aggrieved person as follows:-
“aggrieved person” means any woman who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the respondent and who alleges to have been subjected to any act of domestic violence by the respondent.
There has been no relief provided to men under Domestic Violence Act even though the number of cases of suicide of married men is higher than that of the number of suicide of married women. The thinking of people that a man cannot be a victim of domestic violence is not only wrong but is a huge factor behind such unilateral laws.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE PREVENTION ACT
The Sexual Harassment at Workplace Prevention Act is an act which has been specifically made to prevent sexual harassment at workplace against women and thus only recognises women. Men faces sexual harassment and rape at workplaces more than 3 times than women and the suicide rate of men due to sexual harassment at workplace is more than women, even then there is no law to protect men against such crimes. Men face sexual harassment at work place not only from other men but also from women too but there is no law which recognises this, it’s always the women who are victim in such cases even if it is reported.
Adultery.— In India adultery is governed by Section 497 of Indian Penal Code and until 2018 it was only the male partner who was convicted and punished for adultery while the female partner was not only not convicted but also remained unscathed because the language of the section was-
“Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.”
This is just an example of the difficulty faced by men due to gender-specific laws.
Pocso act is the only act in India which recognises males as the victim of sexual crimes, but it only recognises minors i.e. below 18 years of age and not adults.
These are about the cases which can be seen in common place and which are regulated and are in police eye,much less about the places where there is no proper regulation and is alway from public scrutiny like prisons, orphanages, juvenile centres, coaching centres and homes, where there is no monitoring and no way for the victim to get away.We need laws that addresses these grievances and are for the protection of people as a whole rather than dividing them into genders. In addition to laws, we need to educate people about these issues and make them aware of such cases but most of all what we need to do is change our mindset that only women can be the victim of sexual and domestic violence crimes and that men are always the preparatory of such crimes, but never the victims. We talk about gender equality and equal justice but why do we not demand equality in laws? We need to demand gender neutral laws for a better society and the betterment of everyone in the society.
1- Indian Penal Code,1860.(Universal Law Publishing)
2- Domestic Violence Act,2005 (Universal Law Publishing)
3- POCSO Act,2012 (Universal Law Publishing)
4- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (Universal Law Publishing)