A rape case has been filed! Who is she and where from? A report of sexual abuse in a workplace has come to light! Which company was she working for? There was a fuss in the streets regarding some sexual harassment issue! Was she alone? This ‘she’ does not have an alternative in our minds whenever the context of sexual offences arises. While it is a proven fact that most acts of sexual violence are acts directed against women, it can be detrimental to the male victims if this generalization continues.
Victims fall prey not on the basis of their sex but on the basis of their vulnerability, their situation, and on top of all, the culpability of the criminal mind. It has been a practice to quash attempts of men defending themselves by bashing ‘not all men’ but we cannot guarantee all-encompassing protection to human rights unless we start ‘men too’ campaigns as well. The time immemorial conscription of males to the title of ‘stronger sex’ burdens them further towards supressing their pains that are as real and traumatic as what women face.
Should crimes and offences be subject to gender distinction? Do males not have rights to get their virtues protected? Do men not have an equal standing in regards to human rights concerning women? Have the legislative and practices thought this matter through?
If we are assuming that statistics of abuse faced by men is not on a great scale, we shall brace ourselves for the staggering figures surveys have found out. According to a report published by the US Statista Research Center in December of 2020, the number of reports in which males were either raped or sexually assaulted worldwide was 52,336. The state of Florida alone finds 20.4% (1,477,000) of its total male population over the last decade to have been victims of sexual assault. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 6,822 claims of sexual harassment in 2015 out of which 17.1% comprised of those filed by men.
Several reports including the one by The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA corroborate the fact that 1 in around 35 men in average face completed or attempted rape in their lifetime. The same institution, in its 2010-2012 survey delivers that 1 in 17 men report of being forced to penetrate at least once in their life and 13.5% of the reported perpetrators were females which should come as a shock for societies that accredit criminal capability to only the male members.
The history, especially in regards to activities within prison, is filled with stories of violated helpless men as has been looked into by Lara Stemple in her study of Male Rape and Human Rights. Male sexual violence was used as tools to advance political agendas and exert political aggression as happened in the nations of Chile, Greece, Croatia, Iran, Kuwait, the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslvia during wartime. Sarajevo’s concentration camps had 80% of 6000 surveyed inmates report being raped. Similarly, 21% Sri Lankan men detained in the London torture treatment centre admitted being sexually abused. Among the 1980’s political prisoners in El Salvador, 76% reported instance of sexual torture at least once during imprisonment.
Younger men seem to be more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. A 2019 study by the CDC conducted to examine women rape statistics in juvenile detention facilities surprisingly came up with the data of 16% of the males having been sexually abused and 60% of them receiving sexual threats. Tjaden and Thoennes’ 2000 study reports 75% of male sexual abuse took place before the victims crossed 18 which is 1 in 6 boys compared to 1 in 4 girls data as found out by Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis & Smith in their 1990 study. 48% of those abuses took place before the age of 12. Another 2019 statistics reports 27.8% of male victims suffer their first experience by the time they are 10.
The toll that such incidences of sexual offences take on males is similar to what women victims go through. US rape statistics show 39.7% of the males being raped or physically violated by their partner suffer from chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and further psychological injuries such as depression, helplessness, persistent anger, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, unhealthy self-blame, sexual impairments and confusion. Men populace exceeds women when it comes to suicide.
In the fulfillment of attempts to create a broader progressive rape laws, around 77 countries have welcomed gender neutral legislation, their forebearers being nationals like Denmark, the UK, Australia, the US and such.
The UK, through the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994, included men in its provisions regarding rape the offence against whom was treated only as non-consensual buggary (offence of anal sex against a human or a beast) until then. The Act was a foundation for current Sexual Offences Act, 2003 applied in all of England and Wales which envisions men and women both as possible victims of rape. But males withdrawing their cases has been rampant with 55% of male complaints withdrawal report in London as per Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime 2021.
Sexual Offences Act, 2009 took a substantial step in Scottish Rape Law by redefining rape to recognize victim of male perpetrator to be a person and not just a woman. Criminal Justice Order 2003 of Northern Ireland brought significant change by replacing ‘a man’ with ‘a person’ to indicate a perpetrator. The USA and Canada have similar gender-neutral provisions.
India however has not yet been on the same league regarding rape laws as exemplified above. Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Sexual Harassment and Workplace Act, 2013 have not revised their provisions yet and male sufferers are still ignored when it comes to being sexually victimized. However, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 considers both male and female child to be the potential victims.
Looking from an international point of view all the basic Human Rights documents of the United Nations apply indiscriminately for victims and against perpetrators regardless of their sex, gender or age.
Legislation in Nepal seems to have become progressive by the day in addressing both male and female as the abuser and abused. Chapter 18 of the Country Criminal Code, 2074 prohibits any person to sexually harass, abuse or have unnatural unconsensual sex with another person or an animal. But in case of the crime of rape, the progress has not gone farther than widening its definition to include several acts that may fall within the scope of rape. Males are still not the subject of rape according to our rape law.
Sexual Harassment at Workplace Prevention Act, 2077 may be seen as a positive sign amidst these insufficiencies because it lets any person to report claims of sexual harassment against any person who commits it.
Treating male rape and other sexual offences against men as rare phenomena and not allowing such acts recognition as grave breaches of the law undermine the male experience of violence causing our human rights values to shrink. It is true that male victims and male survivors’ debate loses its credibility when brought up only at the time when women’s grievances are being discussed. But such a circumstance should not attempt to compromise the intensity of outrages against men.
There is an urgent need to view men separately from the standards of masculinity they are obliged to live up to. Sexual harassment against men is not a myth or an issue of marginalised male community. It is rampant in all parts of our world. Characterization of males as sturdy, non-sentimental and inviolable creatures may gratify them for as long as they are out of harm’s way but it will not save them from subjugation from negative consequences shushing out these conversations will bring about.