The law as it currently stands is not clear on the issue
We hear about women getting raped almost every day through newspapers, social media platforms and, sometimes, from our close ones. Sometimes, the accused in these rape cases is a stranger that the victim has never met before. Other times, they are people that the rape victims have trusted to be of their kin.
The question is, is this scenario only for women, or is it for men as well?
To understand the context, we first need to know what are the laws regarding rape in our country. In the Penal Code of 1860, with reference to Section 376, it says: “Whoever commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine, unless the woman raped is his own wife and is not under 12 years of age, in which case he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
However, punishments under Nari o Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain 2000 are tougher. With reference to Section 9 of this act: “Whoever commits rape against a woman or a child, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for life, and with the fine. If the victim dies as a result of the rape, the man shall then be punished with death or with life imprisonment, and also with a fine not exceeding Tk1 lakh.”
Furthermore, the law also imposes punishment for attempted rape and failure to protect, if the rape takes place under police custody.
If we read the sections, we get a clear view that the sections mention only the women to be the victims of rape, and the men to be the perpetrators. There is no provision or law which mentions that if a man faces the same situation where he is molested either by a man or a woman, he would get equal relief from the judiciary.
Even though there are punishments for homosexuality in our country, with the reference of Section 377 of the Penal Code 1860, “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal, shall be punished with two years imprisonment, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Such crimes against the male gender are also alarmingly increasing. In Feni earlier this year, a boy of Class III was molested by his madrasa teacher. Again, in Rajshahi, a 55-year-old madrasa teacher was jailed over charges of sodomizing a teenage student.
Here, the idea is that males can only be sodomized, but not raped. Current rape laws leave out a large swathe of male victims, who do not come forward for fear of stigma and a lack of legal resources.
It is to be believed that rape is a patriarchal crime, but males do face the same situations as women. These cases are not handled as carefully.
For reference, we can take the crimes women commit against other women, and against men. Yet, even the parliament of India declared that women are apparently incapable of committing crimes of power over each other. The Bombay High Court found itself grappling in May with a case involving the alleged molestation of one woman by another. Perhaps the drawbacks of gendered language in the law have become clear. Perhaps not.
Therefore, it should be now known to us all that the molestation and rape of men (using the term sodomy) is also very prevalent in our society. Thus, male victims also need protection of the law.
Sabiha Mehzabin Oishee is a student of law.