Men- The Unheard Victims

Introduction

The patriarchal theory that men typically dominate women is omnipresent. The idea is not wrong but is not cent per cent true. Indian women and children are protected by the Indian laws against various offences and are also given special rights that they can avail. Conversely, men in India have few rights that they can avail. domestic violence.

This article aims at making the readers aware of how men also suffer and in many cases remain a silent victim. This article doesn’t aim to blame women and others, rather through this article the author aims to convey the message that all the victims of any kind of violence, abuse, etc. should be treated equally by the laws, for which the victim’s gender should be immaterial.

Present Situation

There’s a standard assumption that a woman is a victim and a man is a perpetrator. But it wouldn’t be wrong to say that though men overwhelmingly are the perpetrators of violence, they are victims to it as well. The male blaming biases have led to the overlooking of the men’s issues. Though this notion is changing slowly. When women studies became the gender studies department, it signalled a new era of inclusion for men’s issues as well. But it’s high time gender studies set a better example and recognize and consider men and women both their issues equally important. 

It is a well-known fact that there is a significant difference in the violence against men and violence against women but it surely does not mean men do not suffer. We can have a look at few such instances where it can be seen what the present situation is-

  • A case of rape on the boyfriend’s fake promise to marry was filed. Though the decision was in favour of the accused, this accusation resulted in a great loss as his life had already been shattered and defamed. His mother died and his fiancée called off their wedding.[1] This is a case of misuse of laws and there are many more such fake accusations that men face.  
  • When a relationship ends, some women who have had consensual sex make false accusations of rape out of vengefulness, to hurt the man, or in order to extort money out of the accused, promising to withdraw the charge if he gives them what they want. In one such case, the girl’s family agreed to withdraw the charge in return for 5 lakhs rupees. Would any parent settle for any amount of money rather than justice if she’s really been raped? The Supreme Court, in Dhruvaram Sonar v. The State of Maharashtra[2], held that consensual physical relationship between live-in partners does not amount to rape if the man fails to marry the woman due to circumstances beyond his control. The judges observed that a clear distinction had to be drawn between rape and consensual sex.
  • Recently, a molestation accusation on a 14-year-old boy, made by a girl in the #metoo movement, let him commit suicide after this accusation, owing to abuse on social media for the alleged offence. The case was not even brought before a court of justice and he wasn’t yet proved guilty. However, our society has forgotten that everybody is presumed innocent until proven guilty and instead, in such cases, presumes men to be guilty until proven innocent. 
  • Another horrifying case was of Noida, wherein two girls filed a false molestation case on the victims after having a goon gang beat up them over a mere parking tussle.

These are a few incidents that show that some people misuse the rights given to them for their protection, as a shield to make the victim sound like the culprit.

Challenges

There are various reasons due to which many cases like sexual abuse and violence against men are underreported. And the fear of reporting affects male victim-survivors physically and mentally the same as a female victim-survivor. Historically, crimes against men, especially sexual abuse, were considered impossible. But now the scenario is changing as the violence against them is increasing as well. We will now see what are a few challenges that male victims face in our society-

Recognition in society-  

One of the biggest challenges is society itself. That’s where the problem lies. Even with regards to gender-neutral issues/offences, only women and children, and not men, are often portrayed in the light of their victimization. This reflects our society’s mindset. When a crime is committed, the victim must be seen as a victim and not get judged based on their gender.

Legal provisions in India-

Indian laws lack gender-neutrality. Most of the provisions favour women, overlooking men as victims. Though the rate of crime against women far exceeds that of men, it’s not that men cannot be victims that is hard for our society to digest.  So, it is important to recognize such violence, abuse and give all the victims equal treatment, gender being immaterial because a particular section when given a special right then there are people who even misuse it and others suffer.

Male culture-

Male culture makes the male victims feel that they cannot share the offences of which they are a victim with other men without fear of being laughed at. 

Police and training-

There are instances when on a complaint against a male, police arrest him no matter what the evidence is because they are trained in a way that their priority is to protect women and difficult to see men as victims. Men are already proved guilty as soon as a complaint is registered against them by anyone. They presume that women are victims and men culprits. Society ridicules complaints by men.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DEFAMATION

Provisions

Though in the Indian legal setup, most of the provisions are aimed at protecting women and children, men are not entirely left without any remedy. There are various provisions, which men may seek for remedy and also few of the provisions are gender-neutral. Following are few of such provisions explained in brief for the sake of awareness, especially for male victims:-

1. The offences that affect humans physically are provided in Chapter 16 of the IPC and a part of it deals with ‘hurt’, an offence. Following are the provisions that men can legally seek for their own protection-

  • Section 319 defines hurt as causing any bodily pain or any disease or infirmity to a person. In short, if any physical pain or harm is caused to someone by the offender then it will come under this section. For example, if a person hits another person with no intention to cause death, or a person poisons another person.

The punishment[3] for voluntarily causing hurt[4] is imprisonment up to 1 year or fine can also be levied up to one thousand rupees or both.

  • Section 320 provides for grievous hurt that is an aggravated form of simple hurt given under the previous section. It enlists eight kinds of hurt that are termed as grievous hurt in IPC-
  1. i) hurt by emasculation;
  2. ii) privation of eyesight, hearing, joints, etc permanently;

iii) hurt endangering one’s life and causing severe bodily pain for twenty days; etc. The punishment for grievous hurt is imprisonment for a term that may extend up to seven years and may include fine given.[5]

  • Section 324 provides for punishment of voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means that could be a shooting, stabbing or cutting instrument, or an explosive or a heated substance, etc. The punishment is imprisonment for a term that may extend up to three years or fine or both.
  • Section 326 provides for causing grievous hurt by using dangerous weapons or means as mentioned above and the punishment is imprisonment for life or either description for a term that may extend up to ten years and also be liable to fine.

2. Another kind of offence is of assault. Assault differs from hurt, which refers to the causing of some physical injury, while assault is causing apprehension to another person through gestures or preparation with intention or knowledge that it will cause apprehension that the person is about to use criminal force to that person and not physically hurt. The definition is given under Section 351, IPC. Penal provisions relating to assault are as follows:

  • Section 352 provides punishment for whoever assaults or uses criminal force against any person except for on grave and sudden provocation. The punishment is imprisonment for a term that may extend up to three months, or fine up to five hundred rupees or both.
  • Section 353 provides for punishment of assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty for a term that may extend up to two years or fine or both.
  • Sections 355 and 356 provide for punishment for assault or criminal force used with the intention to dishonour a person, except on grave and sudden provocation, and for the attempt to commit theft on any property, respectively.
  • Section 357 provides punishment for a term that may extend up to one year or fine or both for assault or criminal force in attempt wrongfully to confine a person.
  • Section 358 provides punishment for assault or criminal force on grave provocation.

3. Section 406 provides for punishment for criminal breach of trust.[6]

4. Under Section 500, a person may be punished for up to two years for defaming another.[7]

5. Under Section 506, a person can be punished for intimidating a person. And if such intimidation or threat is to cause death or grievous hurt then can be imprisoned for a term up to seven years or fine or both.

Suggestions

In light of the present state of affairs with regards to societal as well as a legislative outlook towards men’s issues, the following must essentially be considered:

Changes in rape laws so as to include males also as victims-

Indian laws do not recognise men as victims of rape, which, in its definition, is limited in scope as being a crime against women. It further greatly fails to acknowledge women as perpetrators of sexual offences. A study by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights found a correlation between boys who survived sexual violence and their propensity for violence towards women and children. There is no denying to the fact that women are more often the victims of sexual violence than men but it doesn’t mean male victims should not have enough legal recourse.

Rape is essentially just non-consensual sex, and thus, as per the concept, equally includes men. Therefore, there is a need to amend the legal definition of rape to recognize male also as victims and women also as preparators in such cases.

Domestic violence-

The incidences of domestic violence against men have increased in the past few years. As per a men’s rights activist, many such cases go unreported due to reasons like feeling ashamed to report, fear of false accusations, male ego, etc. For married men facing domestic violence, there is as for now no legal provisions.  

During the Covid-19 lockdown in India, domestic violence cases have increased not only against women but also against men. As many as 1,774 men across India reached out SIFF- Save Indian Family Foundation during this period, particularly in April[8]. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides protection to wives and female live-in partners from domestic violence. The change needed is in the Act, which should be made gender-neutral.

Sexual Harassment Laws-

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which was originally gender-neutral but by interventions of NGOs and Ministry of Women and Child Development, got its name changed. Now this Act must be amended as the concept is outdated that only women suffer from sexual harassment.

There is a need to normalise talking and discussing the issues faced by men in today’s time and treating a male victim on the equal pedestal as a woman victim is treated by the Indian laws. There is a need for writings, gender studies and discussions more and more and recognizing even men as victims when a wrong is committed against them.

Conclusion

Historically, it was believed that men cannot be victims of any kind of violence, or abuse, etc. But through the years, society, its mindset, literacy rate, and every other situation is changing. Gender equality is a human right issue that people are aware of now. This gender equality should not only be looked after and worked on in other fields, but laws shall also treat all gender equally, as our Constitution says all are equal before the law.[9] It is high time now to recognize the issues of men as a social and public health issue and develop proper laws, helplines for them, educating people, making people aware, and introducing other legal safeguards.

References

[1] Amrit Dhillon, ‘Spare innocent men anguish’: India ruling aims to end false rape claims”, The Guardian, February 11, 2019, https://amp-theguardian-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/amp.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/feb/11/spare-innocent-men-anguish-india-ruling-aims-to-end-false-claims?amp_js_v=a2&amp_gsa=1&usqp=mq331AQFKAGwASA%3D#aoh=15982802962197&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s&ampshare=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fglobal-development%2F2019%2Ffeb%2F11%2Fspare-innocent-men-anguish-india-ruling-aims-to-end-false-claims (Last visited on September 7, 2020)

[2] Cri Appeal no. 6532/2018.

[3] The Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860),s.323.

[4] The Indian Penal Code, 1860,(Act 45 of 1860),s.321.

[5] The Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860), s.335.

[6] The Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860),s.405.

[7] The Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860),s.499.

[8]Jagpreet Singh Sandhu, “Chandigarh: 1,774 men called helpline in April, alleged domestic violence, says NGO”, The Indian Express, April 29, 2020, available at https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/chandigarh-1774-men-called-helpline-in-april-alleged-domestic-violence-says-ngo/ (last visited on September 7, 2020)

[9] The Constitution of India, art. 14.

BY- Ku Richa Singh | Law College Dehradun, Uttaranchal University

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