• Vishakha Bakshi

Criminal Laws against Rape & Sexual Assault of Men

Vishakha Bakshi

How does a law construe rape? The definition of this heinous act depends on what country is recognized as your home. For instance, in India, according to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, rape is the sexual intercourse with a woman against her will, without her consent, by coercion, misrepresentation or fraud or at a time when she has been intoxicated or duped or is of unsound mental health and in any case, if she is under 18 years of age”. It can also be defined as “the act of penile penetration, or any foreign object into the vagina without the consent of women or girl.”


However, as opposed to this, according to Indian Laws, specifically under Article 377 of the IPC, men can only be “sodomised”- but legally, they cannot be raped. Except for this section, all other laws and sections are meant only for females.


As the definition in India lays emphasis on the fact that rape is a crime that can only be committed by men against women, a woman cannot legally be booked or charged for rape. While they still can be booked for sexual assault, or forced unnatural sex under Section 377, women cannot be held accountable for any rape allegations made against them.


We can assume that these laws are framed in this manner due to the patriarchal mind-set of Indian society. The rape of men is seen as a taboo in our country as it is wrongfully equated with the deterioration of the perspective on masculinity and heterosexuality in an individual. The underlying tones of homophobia in our country are fairly strong and deeply rooted, hence affecting the judgement of the people and leading them to doubt the sexual identity of the male victim.


Ergo, the impacted male victims do not report the sexual assault that they have experienced in fear of society labelling them a homosexual or considering them to be less masculine or fragile.


According to a survey by Insia Dariwala, which assessed 1500 men, out of which- 71% said they were abused, 84.9% said they had not told anyone about the abuse and the primary reasons for this were shame (55.6%), followed by confusion (50.9%), fear (43.5%) and guilt (28.7%). In addition to this, according to a 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 93% of perpetrators of sexual violence against men are men.


Given below is a distressing incident shared by a male victim of rape from the city of Mumbai, Vinodhan, showcasing his trauma and PTSD.


“My uncle was giving me a bath when I was 7 years old, and that’s when it first happened. He forced me to give him a blow job and proceeded to have anal sex with me, multiple times. At that point, I didn’t know what was happening to me, whether it was ok, whether it was normal. I got so used to it, I would enter his house and lie down on the bed, just wanting it to get over as soon as possible.
At 12, I began to get gang-raped by his friends, and I would bleed but keep quite…because what if I wasn’t considered ‘man enough’ to not bear pain? My childhood went by having two worlds where I would not remember the rape until something triggered it off and then I would cry endlessly. I would not enter a male washroom because I was scared that I would be raped again…I grew up having no self-esteem.
It was when I was 17 or 18 that I began to understand that what had been happening to me for so many years was wrong–so one day when he came to jump on me, I kicked him and said no. For the first time in 11 years, I said no to being raped.”

Government data reveals that over 50% of child abuse victims are boys and most males are abused between the ages of 5 and 15. Though there is POSCO (“Protection of Children from Sexual Offences”) for the sexual assault of a male child, there is no such provision for an adult male victim of rape or sexual abuse.


Granted, a significantly higher percentage of women are raped on a daily-basis, (a total of 32,033 cases of rape against women were lodged in 2019) but this doesn’t make the cases of rape and sexual assault against men any less significant.


The 174nd Law Commission of India in March 2000 recommended that in order to protect male victims – rape laws in India needed to be made gender-neutral. Later in 2017, advocate Sanjiv Kumar filed a PIL at the Delhi High Court, which questioned the constitutionality of the rape laws under the IPC. In this petition, it is stated:

“Gender neutrality is the simple reorganization of the reality that men sometimes fall victim to the same or at least very similar acts of those suffered by women …. Male rape is far too prevalent to be termed as an anomaly or a 'freak incident'. By not having gender – neutral laws, we are denying a lot more men justice than is commonly thought.”


In July of 2019, KTS Tulsi, a senior lawyer and parliamentarian in the Rajya Sabha also brought a gender-neutral Criminal Law Amendment Bill before the parliament in order to make the rape laws gender-neutral in India. To quote him,

“Laws need to be balanced; the balance has been disturbed. All sexual offences should be gender-neutral. Men, women and other genders can be predators and, women and others need to be protected.”

With the limpid lack of severe rape and sexual assault laws in the Constitution of India, along with the unsupportive and discouraging response to rape against men from the society of our own country- male victims are silenced and made to feel powerless and weak, as their chances of obtaining justice are slim-to-none.

It may very well be a long while before a person, regardless of gender, is truly secure in their bodies. It is a mountain that remains to be climbed when the nation has barely begun to walk.

However,

Every voice magnified, petition signed and story heard;

Every law rectified, rapist jailed and victim justified;

Every child rescued, person saved and rape prevented is a foot closer to a summit where a person can feel safe.

The path ahead is a long and steep with no end in sight. The path is littered with too many obstacles for it to be possible to cross.

No, it’s not possible. It’s necessary.


“There remains what seems like an impenetrable wall around violence and we must all play a role in breaking that wall”

- Paraphrased from Reese Witherspoon.






(1) The Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2019 and gender – neutral sexual offences in India, The Criminal Law Blog (2020).

(2) Delhi July 13, July 13, and 1st, supra note 12.

(3) https://edtimes.in/why-do-most-of-the-cases-involving-male-victims-of-sexual-assault-in-india-go-unreported/

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