What would you do if you see a man hurting a woman? Yes, obviously you will try to help her. Who wouldn’t! It is our mindset 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 sexual harassment of men also happens? I am sure most of you would find it hard to believe. Our system of laws and judiciary is not in favor of men.
There have been instances where just a complaint by a woman is enough to land someone in jail. There are no investigations done in such matters. However, just the thought of men being sexually harassed doesn’t sit well with our societal standards.
Shonee Kapoor, a Dowry, Divorce and Separation Consultant, working for the cause of men facing malicious prosecution since 2008, sheds light on the realities of men being sexually harassed.
Men Can Face Sexual Harassment Too
Not many know that sexual abuse of men in India is also pretty common, either at the workplace or at home. Our social fabric is such that men have little or no means to voice their plight if they are sexually harassed. What will happen if a man complains of 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 the 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. Men would never, or very rarely stand up and speak against sexual harassment.
Sexual Assault On Men Has Many Types
We all know that the laws of sexual harassment are biased toward women. Even laws on dowry and domestic violence are in favor 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 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) that deals with sexual assault on men is 377. A section that is again misused against the LGBTQ community. So yes, sexually abused men do exist in society, and exist in a multitude. Here are the following ways in which sexual harassment of men takes place:
Related Reading: What Are The Legal Rights Of The LGBTQ Community In India?
1. By women
Many men, mostly young boys, are assaulted 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 toward male colleagues and many times female employees make advances toward men.
All this is very common nowadays but goes unidentified as a crime. Whenever a woman 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. 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 he should do. Sexual preference is personal and everyone should have the right to theirs but seeking sexual favors by coercion can never be justified.
Many men I know of have had similar forced gay encounters and they have felt humiliated afterward. The cases of sexual abuse of men are never brought under vigilance but shoved in some dark corners. It appears as if modesty is only a women’s forte and men’s modesty cannot be outraged.
Related Reading: What should you do if you are sexually harassed at work?
I was approached by Vikram Jaiswal, a 37-year-old merchandiser, with a peculiar problem. Even I was shocked for a moment. A female colleague was stalking and harassing him. She wanted to have a physical relationship 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 entire office. This is just one case. There are many such cases where guys get afraid and are clueless in terms of what to do. Male sexual harassment victims are at a loss at what to do – seek help from outside or turn their face away in embarrassment.
In our legal system, the word ‘rape’ is only associated with male power. The presumption is that only women are raped and molested but men can never be sexually harassed. Whereas the real data says that sexually abused men constitute a substantial percentage of this population. 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 the corporate world 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 about protecting their female employees against any inappropriate advances; no one thinks about the sexual harassment of male employees.
So who will save men from this? Our constitution gives the ‘right to equality to every citizen of the country, so if the complaints of men are not heard, it is a clear violation of this right. Men being sexually harassed is as important an issue as women being assaulted.
Sexual harassment of men too requires to be handled with sensitivity. 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.
You need to find witnesses, be completely sure about the account of the incident and provide timelines to prove harassment in court.
Tell them you will file a case in court. Gather witnesses and enough proof to have enough material to handle things legally.