Author: Agrani Khare
Abstract: This article focuses on explaining the ambit and effects of male rape on the victims, the social stigmas attached male rapes have led to myths on which the society lays down its beliefs and the after effects of rape on male victims. The author has tried to put forth the necessity of gender-neutral laws and the countries which have and have not adopted such laws yet. The author, with the help of this article emphasizes on the need to recognize men as victims rather than preparators of rape and introduce laws protecting their rights.
There are two sides to defining rape based upon gender-neutrality of this crime.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines rape as “the act of forcing someone to have sexual intercourse against the will of the person, using violence or threatening behavior.”
This definition puts forth the fact that rape can be committed by any gender against any gender. It covers the ambit of sexual assault and rape not only against females but also against males in the world.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines rape as “a person commits the offence if he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with his penis, without consent to the penetration.
These definitions highlight only female victimization of rape and ignores the male rape cases, thereby framing males as only the preparators in this dreadful crime.
Historically, rape was considered as a criminal offence against a female. The studies and surveys till late 1980s did not focus upon the male victims of rape and sexual assault at all and portrayed only the females as the sufferers of this evil. It was around 2000s that rape became considerable as a gender-neutral word and its victims could be understood as the people of not any particular but all the genders, including men. Even today, after an alarming number of cases on male rape and sexual assault, there are very few countries in the world which recognize this grievous crime and safeguard all the genders from sexual assault by have gender-neutral laws on rape.
Male rape refers to a male becoming victim of sexual assault when forced to engage in unwanted sexual activity. It may include either penile penetration or penetration of any other object of any orifice or the insertion of a penis in the mouth, or even the non-consensual sexual activity against a male by any other gender, by overpowering the victim. This concept of ‘male rape’ is self-explanatory to the fact that a male can be raped not only by another male but also by a female or a transgender.
Even after recognition of male rapes and certain laws being made on the same, most of the victims do not file complain against the sexual assault they face. The reason behind this is the mindset of the people and the stereotype prevailing in the society.
Stereotypes of male rapes:
The society contributes to ‘not letting a man speak of his mental trauma post sexual abuse or even not letting a male cry out for help’, by not being co-operative listeners or not raising voice for the same. Instead of acceptance with sympathy, when the world starts to doubt the victim, it becomes even more difficult for them to come forward and let their abuse story be known to others.
In the world so diverse, there are distinct myths attached to male population with respect to rape. It is assumed that males cannot be vulnerable to crimes like rape and sexual assault. We live in an era where men are considered to be strong, mighty, sturdy, brawny, hardy, muscular, stout, dominant, valiant and brave, the same men being raped out in the world leaves a question mark on their masculinity. The question that ‘what sort of a man is he, if he is weak enough to get raped?’ is a common societal stigma which puts the victims of male rape in state of unacceptability. Due to the mis-consideration, that men are strong enough, they are also expected to little or no traumatization even if subjected to sexual assault. Yet another misconception that the rape victim must be gay, scares the sufferers to come into lime light. These myths contribute to little or no seek of legal aid against male rapes in the world.
1500 males when surveyed by the foundation of Insia Dariwala, 71% males were victims and survivors of sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse. Out of these 71%, 84.9% of the men did not complain against the preparator of their sexual abuse. When further asked upon, it was 55.6% out of shame, 50.9% out of confusion, 43.5% because of guild and 28.7% out of guilt, that none of them ever filed complain against their wrong-doers.
Insia Dariwala, says that people generally lack the sensitivity to deal with cases of assaults on males. “I have interacted with adult male survivors and social workers who have cited police hostility, ridicule and even lack of trust when it comes to believing that a boy was sexually abused,” she said. “The most common perception dished out to male survivors is that they may have enjoyed it.”
Effects of Rape:
Sexual abuse, irrespective of any gender, results in physical, emotional and psychological breakdown of the victim. This trauma wipes away the personality and the confidence of the survivor. The physical and sexual violence leaves an individual in a pitiable state, hard to recover from. Along with the mythological taboos attached to male rape, it becomes even more difficult for the male victims of rape, to bare this trauma and lead a normal life again.
Studies tell that male rape victims are more likely to witness severe physical abuse and incur severe non-genital injuries from the assault. The study by Stermac and colleagues (2004) noted that 45% of male survivors who went to sexual assault centre noted some form of physical injury along with symptoms like headaches, ulcers, nausea, colitis, and broken bones. Some victims also become infected with sexually transmitted diseases due to unprotected penetration.
The social stigma attached to male rape victims leads to secondary victimization, which refers to the “victim blaming” behaviour of social service providers, being insensitive, which traumatize the victims of sexual violence. The unacceptance of male survivors by the society pulls back the diminishing trauma within the victims. Rape not only attacks the sexual and physical being of an individual but also hampers the mental and emotional balance of the victim.
The rape victims are susceptible to a number of health and mind disorders including depression, frustration, alcoholism, drug abuse, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts. The risk of post-traumatic stress disorder is common in rape survivors. Homophobia, i.e., negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality is also common in such cases.
Rape laws in the world:
In the conflict of recognition of it as a crime, there are some countries such as United Kingdom, Canada, United States of America, North Ireland, Scotland, etc. which have already criminalized male rape, while some countries, like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, etc. which still have no laws on male rapes. In countries with no laws protecting the male rape victims, rape still is thought to be a gendered crime which pictures females as victims and males as preparators. The impact that this gender discrimination leave is not only devastating but also inhumane.
Rape laws in India:
The Indian Penal Code, in section 375 (IPC), when dealing with sexual assault and abuse, defines rape as “a man is said to commit the offence of rape, who has sexual intercourse with a woman against her will, without her consent”, etc. This definition clearly neglects the male victims of rape and lays down no legal aid to such citizens of India. This gender specific definition of rape is not only unjust but also an infringement to Article 14 of the constitution of India which states that “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
There have been Public Interest Litigations filed by many people across the country, demanding gender neutral rape laws. A recognised PIL of activist Sanjiv Kumar on the same concern states “the existing law pertaining to rape cases being biased towards men, since men are bound to be included as perpetrators, whereas, the woman are defined as victim in this respect” thereby emphasizing on the same demand.
In the huge population count of this country, with rigorously increasing number of male sexual abuse cases, it is an issue of immense importance which urges the State to make laws for protecting the rights of males in context of sexual assault and abuse.
Need for gender neutral rape laws
It is the need of the hour to understand that male protection against rape is not an infringement with female protection. The feminist groups questioning the need of protecting men against sexual violence and abuse should find the answer within the books of humanity. Men should not be seen as preparators of this crime. Law of every land in the world shall protect every citizen against any crime without any discrimination on the basis of stereotype and gender. Every country worldwide must have gender neutral rape laws with strict punishments for preparators irrespective of their gender.
Transformation of the society
The society, instead of blaming and shaming the victim, should come forward to support such men and let them not be alone in this traumatizing fight against the evil. It is only with the collecting efforts of all that those victims would gather courage to complain against the sexual abuse they ever faced. This is how the unrecognized crime of male rape would gain recognition and hence be criminalized.