Shonee Kapoor is a Dowry, Divorce and Separation Consultant, working since 2008 for the cause of men facing malicious prosecution under Dowry Act 498a, the Domestic Violence Act, Divorce, Maintenance and Child Custody Matters.
(Names changed to protect identities)
What will you do if you see a man hurting a woman? Yes, obviously you will try to help her. Who wouldn’t! It is our mind-set that women are the weaker sex and they become victims of harassment easily. That is true to some extent, but not entirely. Would you believe me if I said that men also face harassment in many forms? I am sure most of you would find it hard to believe. Our system of laws and judiciary is not in favour of men. There have been instances where just a complaint by women is enough to land someone in jail. There are no investigations done in such matters.
Men can face sexual harassment too
Not many know that men in India are also subjected to sexual harassment, either at the workplace or at home. Our society is designed in such a way that it gives men no voice if they are sexually harassed. What will happen if a man complains that he is being harassed? First, he will be laughed at. Second, many of his friends would think that he is lucky to have female attention. And finally, no one would believe him. If a woman sleeps with many men, it is believed that she could do that because all those men wanted so. No one would believe that she may have wanted that.
Our mythology also hints about sexual harassment of men. Remember how a beautiful ‘apsara’ disrupted the meditation of Vishwamitra? She aroused him with her beauty and body. This is only good while it is in our religious books; we cannot accept this in real life. How can a woman make sexual advances on a man, most of us would wonder. But surely it’s time that now we take notice of this and address this issue.
We all know that the laws of sexual harassment are biased towards women. Even the dowry laws and domestic violence are in favour of women. So, basically, if a man complains of sexual harassment, he will not be heard. According to our society, men cannot be raped, sexually harassed or taken advantage of. There are various sections of IPC that deal with sexual assault, rape and even eve-teasing, but they are all for women. The only section that deals with sexual assault on men is 377. A section that is again misused against the LGBT community.
Sexual harassment of men has many forms
1. By women
Many men and mostly young boys are assaulted regularly at the workplace or otherwise. Men are assaulted by girlfriends or wives on a daily basis and they do not report it. At workplaces lewd gestures are made towards the male colleagues and many times female employees make advances towards men. All this is now very common nowadays, but goes unidentified as a crime. Whenever a women approaches a man, no one believes him; in fact many men come to me saying that their wives suspect them in spite of their innocence and this leads to trouble in marriage.
2. By men
A number of men come to me asking how to handle gay advances towards them. Last month Navin, a call center employee, met me with this issue. He had just joined as a trainee and was put on night shifts during his second week of work. He told me that one night the senior male manager made advances on him, promising him a permanent job. Navin was totally clueless as to what should he do. We all have encountered gays once in our lives at least. Sexual preference is personal, but hitting on someone forcefully is always wrong.
Sexual preference is personal, but hitting on someone forcefully is always wrong.
Many men have had gay encounters and they have felt humiliated after that. The cases of sexual harassment on men are never brought under vigilance and are shoved in some dark corners. It appears as if modesty is only a women’s forte and men’s modesty cannot be outraged.
I was approached by Vikram Jaiswal, who is a merchandiser aged 37, with a peculiar problem. Even I was shocked for a moment. A female colleague was stalking him and she even tried to harass him. She wanted to have a physical relation with him so she started following him home after work and even started calling him from various unknown numbers. This disturbed him mentally and he was under a lot of stress. He told me that he could not take it anymore when during an office party she got drunk and threw herself on him. He was humiliated in front of the whole office. This is just one case. There are many such cases where guys get afraid and are clueless in terms of what to do.
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In our law system, the word ‘rape’ is only associated with male power. It is only females who can get raped and molested and men can never be sexually harassed. Whereas the real data says that 13% of men between the ages of 18 and 24 years’ experience sexual harassment. I run a company that provides guidance to various HR departments in corporates on how to handle sexual harassment at the workplace. We guide them about what policies to form and how to handle cases. During orientation we have seen that all the companies are concerned in saving their female employees against sexual harassment; no one thinks about male employees.
So who will save men from this? Our constitution gives ‘right to equality’ to every citizen of the country, so if the complaints of men are not heard, it will be a clear violation of this right. Sexual harassment against men requires to be handled with intensity and rightfully. The laws against sexual harassment must be made gender neutral in India. But even before that, what we all need to understand and accept is that “Men are victims of sexual harassment too”.