It was in late December last year when Ajay(Names changed to protect privacy) was walking back home from his college library. He hailed an auto in order to get back home sooner. It must have been around 10pm in the night when, when the driver took a suspiciously sharp turn into an empty alleyway. What followed next were the unforgettable and most scarring ten minutes of his life. The driver had physically tried to force himself on Ajay. It was a spine chilling struggle that continued, till he finally managed to escape from the scene. His harrowing experience left him speechless for nearly, the next 2-3 months before he could finally garner the courage to face and narrate the incidents to his friends.
We are living in an age when we have finally started rambling, and questioning the age old foundations of societal tethers. The recent most #Metoo has sought to shake the very basis of the perennial and orthodox outlook harbored by the people and brought it face to face with a massive widespread outrage against the most traditionally established names in public diaspora. The time has come, to finally grab and unmask these vile, atrocious people and claim publicly what has only been passed among hushed whispers and grievous gasps. It provided the much needed impetus to the tumultuous struggle of the survivors and landmarked the ushering in of the perspective on providing asylum to the survivors. It has been described as ‘sad’, ’honest’ and ‘powerful’ and has gained worldwide mass following in the last few years.
For years, there has been a breeding of lethal contempt against dilution of the oppressive gender norms which seek to strangle individuals under the weight of heavy cultural expectations and assignment of a hierarchical status on the basis of genitalia. In the wake of such promising turn of the social cogwheels, there are many like Ajay* who are yet to fully come to terms with their experiences and many like Tanushree Dutta and Flora Saini, who are bearing the brunt of abuse and harassment at the hands of powerful men. We shall be a serious failure as a society if we even, unconsciously, downplay the effect violation has on either of the victim’s mind. But, it might require a much deeper motivation, for us as a society to create an environment where any victim can willingly be expressive about their ordeal. Cases highlighting abuse against men are a sparsely reported occurrence in the mainstream media, creating an illusion of wider disparity between the gender based victim numbers. In this article we shall explore why men are not willing to share their stories in this mass spread, unified cry for justice.
In a recent informal Facebook poll, numerous people have cited various reasons about the situation. The prime-most cause being attributed to biased judicial machinery. Indian Penal Code 497, Cr PC 125 and the much debated Domestic Violence Act 2005 are some of the statutes clearly indicating a biased viewpoint about men only being seen as perpetrators of the crime. At a certain point of time these were much called for to precisely place the legal power in the hands of the marginalized, but, at the same time resorted to severe flaws in making it gender inclusive. Responding to a popular discussion thread on Twitter, pediatrician Dr. Jay Gohil states about the incapability of the male supervisor to take any action if a female employee responds to his professional notices with a warning and threat to file a harassment case. The Constitutional provision in terms of Indian Penal Code 509 states: A heavy fine and a year-long prison sentence is to be awarded to men intending to insult the modesty of women and intruding her privacy. However, there is no remedy or reprisal whatsoever for men who have been physically assaulted, faced with unwanted sexual advances or their privacy intruded into.
This idealogy goes a long way back to the times we bring up our children. We forget to teach our boys it is just as unacceptable to touch one inappropriately as it is to be touched. Boys and later on, men can be equally vulnerable and violated. As a community in general, we are obsessed innately with the ideas of gender roles that we end up choking the emotional expression and responsiveness in them. Children need to be taught that good touch, bad touch can be anybody’s tirade, irrespective of sex. Also, consent works both the ways and our children should not grow up thinking otherwise. This is compounded by the fact that coming out is always not necessarily met with solidarity and comfort.
Experiences shared by a media employee on Twitter described a job interview gone awfuly awry with the interviewer making uncomfortable gestures and innuendos. What is even more saddening, is the reaction with a tone of mockery displayed to the experience. With outright shaming to jeering and even questioning the legitimacy of claims made by a man, the reactions were beyond disgraceful. And similar rants have been meted out to certain victims by and large. There is complete hushing off of the matter or a sniggered exclamation as to how a man should always enjoy female attention and company. The basic idea that states anybody touching anyone inappropriately, without one’s consent is assault and harassment, is lost in the exercise when it comes to a certain gender. In a recent case highlighting the story of a South Korean reporter being inappropriately touched by female onlookers raised stark questions to our conscience as a virtual, global network. Time and again in the wake of such news we are forced to reckon with the fact that we must #BelievetheSurvivors in order to create an environment of healthy demographic growth.
There are concrete numbers that are brought in to validate their struggle. One in every three individuals who has suffered domestic violence is a man. With statistics indicating, a good 70% of men being victims of violence we are still a long way from accepting and adapting to the reality of abuse faced by men. These are in no way a move to invalidate the suffering faced by the large majority of females. Rather, these are social pointers depicting that crime and violence of sexual nature are gender independent. Moreover, we as a population have failed miserably to support those who have been falsely accused of molestation and indecency. Sarvajeet Singh is still fighting to get rid of the grave allegations levelled against him in a false case of indecency, and we the country people failed even massively as an online forum when we resorted to lashing out and verbal abuse against the accuser instead of demanding fair trial. Similar is the story of Rohtak sisters publicly beating up men who were falsely accused of molestation. The entire idea is not to trivialize the courage of thousands of women who are finally finding the courage to call out their abusers, but to, sensitize and encourage a similar solidarity amongst all other survivors irrespective of their sex.
We really need to adopt a more conducive outlook and a more stable sense of justice when met with such appalling headlines. We need to believe her or him, we need to believe the survivors. The cases that see the light of the day, are a mere handful, and many incidents are suppressed even more due to the myriad of reasons discussed above. Yet we are in the midst of a massive revolution of accepting and embracing the truth- the truth of abuse, of survival and of courage. One can be only be hopeful that the coming times bring about the required social, judicial and cultural shift where we can allow sexual violence survivors an empathetic forum and an emboldened voice to fight the culprits.