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Is it easy to get away with sodomy in India? A look at 'male rape' laws

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 24 April 2016, 13:16 IST

Let's begin with asking a few questions.

1. Are there enough laws to protect men against rape?

2. Is male rape recognised rape?

3. Do cases of men getting raped get reported as often as that of women?

No, no, and no.

Now, if you're already protesting with, "But women get raped more, how is sodomy rape?, etc", here's a thought: women may be getting raped more often than men, and that has much to do with how society has exercised power over women for generations, but until men start reporting rape, we'll honestly never know.

And if you're asking the second question, anal penetration is not rape (just like vaginal is not), as long as it's consensual. If a man forces himself on another man, it's definitely rape, and our laws need to recognise this, for human rights, if nothing else.

The story

But online media doesn't preach unless there's a news point, right? So here's ours. According to an article authored by Umar Mushtaq for Kashmir Reader, a young HIV positive man in Kashmir, who had unknowingly infected his wife, lost their one-year-old baby to the virus. Riyaz (name changed) had been allegedly raped by an Indian Army captain and his friend 22 years ago.

"I died the day my child died. That day I wanted to get a gun and kill that captain. Who will believe me that he raped me and therefore killed my child?" Riyaz asks.

Riyaz apparently found out about his condition a few months after the alleged gang-rape on being summoned to the captain's office. "I was certain that I would be raped again but I was shocked when he told me that he was sorry for not having worn the condom that day and that he was HIV positive," says Riyaz.

"The captain gave me money and said 'forget about it'. He warned me that I would be killed and my body thrown in a river if I spoke about it," he added.

But Riyaz feared stigma, enough to not bring it up with his wife. It's only when she delivered their baby that the doctors found out they were both HIV positive, the article states.

"I lied to the doctors when they asked whether I was HIV positive. But they insisted on taking my blood samples," he recounts.

Did the alleged perpetrator, an Army captain no less, get away? According to the report, the captain had been transferred from the camp in 2010. But he had a long history of sexual abuse against men.

A shopkeeper around the Pattan army camp in Kashmir recounts how he apparently escaped the captain's advances. "I went to the camp once and he tried to force himself on me. But when I protested and threatened to make it an issue he slapped and abused me and kicked me out of his office," says Mohammad.

Catch reached out to Indian Army Spokesperson NN Joshi, who termed the allegations "baseless". "This is not factual. It's with the intent to malign the image of the army," said Joshi.

The perpetrators

While Catch couldn't independently verify the above mentioned story, the larger question here is: Do men in positions of power get away with sodomy? 

For instance, in July 2013, a case involving sodomy grabbed massive media attention. Reason? Former Madhya Pradesh finance minister Raghavji had been accused of male rape (or rape, as it should be called) by his household help.

The victim accused the minister of having continuously sexually exploited him for three years. The minister allegedly promised him a government job for complying with his sexual demands, failing which the boy could have faced dire consequences.

Now, this is a young boy from a poor family up against a top state minister. In addition to this, there's very little to no attention that is given to victims of forced sodomy. Secondly, the alleged perpetrator in question, much like the Indian Army captain, holds a position of power.

Unsurprisingly, the story got a lot of attention, not because of the crime itself, but because of the word 'sodomy' attached to it.

Make no mention of whether it was sexual abuse or not.

The law

Male rape is not directly identified by any law in the country.

IPC Sections 354 A, 354 B, 354 C and 354 D, that deal with sexual harassment, disrobing, stalking and voyeurism, explicitly see women alone as victims of such crimes, and men as the perpetrators. Moreover, Section 375 of IPC, which directly deals with the problem of rape, also makes no mention of rape against men.

As if the lack of legal protection wasn't enough, the stigma attached, as in the case of Riyaz, is related to homosexuality. A double edged sword, IPC Section 377, while persecuting members of the LGBT community, also identifies male rape as 'sodomy' -- a crime that is one because of the method of penetration, and not because a human being was raped.

As Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy had said while the anti-rape bill was being voted on in Parliament, "In case of male rape, men raping men, men raping transgender, hijra, kothi or someone from a gender identity somewhere between male and female - that rape is not a crime."

"You should criminalise male rape because it's an act of violence," she argued. "You don't criminalise male rape because it's an unnatural act against the order of nature."

The reality

Men get raped. Just as brutally and senselessly as women do. The victim could be a straight, gay, or bisexual man, or even a transgender. Most of them don't or cannot report their case due to varying reasons.

In the off chance they do, they get assaulted or ridiculed by the police. Now, by our law, since Sec 377 only defines it as unnatural sex, a reported case of male rape could even put the victim in an answerable position. And if he does gets arrested, there's nothing worse than prison.

For instance, according to a Human Rights Watch report, about 22 per cent of male inmates have been raped at least once during their incarceration. And these are just the recorded figures in the United States of America -- a country where sodomy isn't illegal.

First published: 24 April 2016, 13:16 IST
 
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.

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