So, when we speak about sexual harassment, what image comes to our mind? A pitiful, FEMALE victim. Yep. Sexual harassment has become almost synonymous with sexual harassment of women. Though it is a grim reality, no doubt, but what about their male counterparts? While feminism gets an upper-hand across the globe, isn’t it high time that we address the ever-growing cases of male sexual harassment?
During 2009, 16% of all sexual harassment cases in the US were filed by men. This isn’t something which can be ignored. Then why is it such a taboo? The answer lies in our mental set-up and in the pre-conceived definitions of masculinity. We always believe that men, the stronger sex, are the ones capable of inflicting an assault, and never face one, themselves. We are convinced that a man, under any circumstances, can protect himself. But is it the reality?
1 out of 4 men suffers from sexual violence in their life. The most common ground for male sexual harassment is the workplace. Molesting the employee and threatening him for his job is the workplace scenario. Other genres of harassment include rape at the workplace, asking personal questions of sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances etc. But in today’s techno-savvy, online sexual harassing is raising its dark head. According to Pew research statistics 2014, 13% of men between the ages 18-24 have faced sexual harassment online. Avenues like school, colleges, hostel, prisons etc also as nesting grounds for potential sexual assaults towards the darker sex.
So, the actual question is, ‘How will we protect the men from facing assaults of such kinds? There is NO law or legislature which safeguards a man from harassment. Though Article 14 of the Indian Constitution ensures right to Equality, the legal system roars an ironic laughter when all the laws talk about the protection of women. Only a single section, the section 377, talks about sodomy. Every other kind of sufferance on the part of men is conveniently ignored.
So, where does the problem lie? It lies in us; the way we perceive women as ‘soft, tender, and all mellow’. It is from here that our denial of male getting abused stems. So while getting an acceptance is hard here, the question of addressing the issue by making suitable laws can surely be considered a far-fetched dream, isn’t it?
What can we do, then? With a lot of men uniting in the metropolitan areas like Mumbai against workplace harassment, it is very much evident that finding solutions to this grievance is the need of the hour. While a regulation passed by University Grants Commission (UGC) gives the male students liberty to file a complaint against any sexual assault, it is necessary that men should also be engulfed in the ‘Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill 2012’. Specific codes need to be added to the IPC to give a legal back-up to the victim.
Patriarchy gives a fair share of a burden of ‘machismo’ to the men, too. Men are not allowed to cry, to whine and are always expected to be the ‘Knights in shining armour’. So when guys here aren’t expected to have a heart and soul, an ability to feel and express an array of emotions, such soul-crushing experiences of assault are meant to go unsaid and unheard. There is a need to create awareness about such hideous crimes, which scares the memory of the victim forever. We, as a society, need to alter our mindsets and sensitize ourselves if we want to address this issue in the social realms.