It is strange that modesty is the rule for women when what they most value in men is boldness.
-Ninon de L’Enclos
Crime against men in India is a mute topic. Everybody knows it but nobody wants to discuss it, even the victims themselves refuse to accept it. Article 14 is our Fundamental Right, which promises ‘Right to Equality’ to every citizen of India. Equality means ‘the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities’. But it is presumed that when we talk about gender inequality it means crime against women. Apparently, gender inequality does not mean crime against women but men also. Today, our society is bold enough to talk up the topic like LGBT then it should also understand the seriousness of the concept of ‘Crime against Men’. According to a study conducted in 2010,it was found that nearly in every state of India 19 per cent of males were indeed subject to sexual harassment at work place. Even it is regarded as taboo and the silence give rise to ignorance — burying the widespread issue and muffling a hard stand against it. This Article helps in evaluating this provision and its efficacy in the course of the present day.
Some Real Stories
Some real life incidents faced by men were published in an Article of the Column “THREAD” of E-Paper of The Hindu on 2nd May, 2017. According to it, a male crime reporter was stalked and was receiving inappropriate messages on Facebook from a woman. Who also made a phone call to him which was very discomforting for the Reporter. Eventually, he sought help of the Superintendent of Police of his acquaintance who did not take his complaint seriously and advised him to let her be. On having asked that why had he not filed a sexual offence case against that woman, he said “Assume for a second that I did file charges. I know the system like the back of my hand. The girl would be called for questioning, and if she lied and said that it was me who was harassing her instead, her version would take precedence over mine and I’d be screwed.”
There is another story of a young man who went to drop a female friend after a night pub-hopping who forced herself on him. Due to this lewd act he was shaken. When he told his friends that he had been violated, they laughed and said that thousand men would like to be in his stead. Such males feel that they don’t have any recourse for their humiliation.
Decoding the Legal Provision
Law is a game of interpretation. Even this provision has opened doors to lot of interpretations. The need for interpretation starts with ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’. This particular term which forms the crux is not just ambiguous and vague, but to some extent is also quite subjective. Modesty for one woman may not mean the same for another woman. In that sense, the term is subjective.
Secondly, from a plain reading of the provision, it comes across that assaulting or using criminal force only with the intention of outraging the modesty of a woman shall be punishable. So does it mean that assault or criminal force without the aforementioned intention will not be punishable? If that is the case, then the law will be quite narrow in its scope and may require some amendment or modification in order to create a fear in the minds of the perpetrators. A quick glance at some of the judgments rendered by the Supreme Court will help provide us with some clarity.
The Supreme Court has elaborated ‘modesty’ on various occasions:
Modesty is a virtue which is inherent to a female owing to her sex; A woman, intelligent or imbecile, young or old, , possesses modesty, awake or sleeping which is capable of being outraged; Modesty of a woman is outraged when the act of the offender is such that it is shocking and can be perceived as an affront to feminine decency and dignity etc.; Mere knowledge that the modesty of a woman is likely to be outraged is sufficient to constitute the offence without any deliberate intention of outraging her modesty. Section 354 will apply to all sexual acts intended or committed against a woman that stop short of penetration. Lack of protest by a woman cannot be an alibi for the “offender” who has “outraged her modesty”.
The Supreme Court has in a number of judgments tried to elucidate which acts can or cannot be interpreted to mean ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’. Let us now examine some of these judgments:
More than a decade back, it was in the case of Rupan Deol Bajaj v K.P.S. Gill ((1995) 6 SCC 194) that the Hon’ble Supreme Court made an attempt to carry out the herculean task of interpreting the term ‘modesty’. Since the IPC was silent on the meaning to be assigned to it, the Court took recourse to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (3rd Edition) to ascertain the exact meaning to be assigned to this word. As per the dictionary meaning of the term ‘modesty’, particularly in relation to a woman, meant a woman ‘womanly propriety of behavior; scrupulous chastity of thought, speech and conduct’ while the dictionary meaning of the word `modest’ meant ‘decorous in manner and conduct; not forward or lewd’. This made the whole process of interpreting all the more complex.
As opposed to this was the judgment pronounced by the Apex Court in Aman Kumar v State of Haryana, (AIR 2004 SC 1497) almost a decade later the Supreme Court categorically stated that the very act of pulling a woman, removing her dress together with making a request for sexual intercourse was sufficient to prove that the modesty of the woman was likely to be outraged. In such a situation, intention to prove the same was not required and could be inferred. Thus, instead of laying down one clear interpretation of the term, the court chose to decide the same on case to case basis.
Assault – the double edged sword
Law as they say is often misused by many. The weapon of Section354 of IPC has also been subjected to a lot of misuse by women seeking revenge against their male counterparts by falsely alleging them on the grounds of outraging their modesty. This was exactly what happened in the case of M.A. Farooqui v State of Andhra Pradesh (1998 (1) ALD Cri 146.) in which a fake case was made out by a woman. This brought into light one important point that there are people who may even misuse the protection granted to them.
The Paralyzed Law
In India, men are just treated as ATM machine or sperm donor. They are burdened with responsibilities and no rights have been given to them. Men do not have any modesty or dignity. According to Indian society, their modesty cannot be outraged as according to them the urge of sex is only in men. Around 13 per cent of men between the age group of 18-24 have been victim of online sexual harassment. The statistics are not exact because of lack of independent research. In fact, the cases of sexual harassment of men are hardly ever reported owing to the dearth of legislation. This matter has been raised in several countries. Moreover, 77 countries have legally addressed the issue and enacted gender neutral laws. But Parliament of India is not accepting the bitter truth that men also have modesty which can be outraged. On the flip side, University Grant Commission in early 2016, introduced Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment Regulations which allows male student to lodge complaint against male, female and transgender for sexual harassment. But because of sick mentality and fear of false case charges no complaint has been registered yet.
Senior Advocate and Parliamentarian KTS Tulsihave introduced a private members Bill before the Upper House of Parliament on July 12, 2019. The Bill proposes to amend the criminal laws to make sexual offences gender neutral. The Bill proposes amendments in Code of Criminal Procedure,1973, Indian Evidence Act,1872 and Indian Penal Code 1860. On the other side the Bill also calls for inserting a new offence in the rape laws. The Central Government firmly opposed the decision to make laws on rape gender-neutral, “keeping in mind that victims of sexual harassment in India are predominantly women, and the perpetrators mostly men.”
The Law Commission suggested in its 172nd Report that the word “person” should be used for either male or female. Moreover, “sexual assault” shall be replaced from the word “rape”.
The Bill was also introduced in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in 2019. The Court had declined the matter, and Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi declared that the matter required legislation to be passed, which was the domain of Parliament.
The partiality between man and woman has certainly taken a form of evil which is completely feeding on the male strata of society. The belief that ‘modesty is female issue and lust is a man issue’ is common. Everyone has raised the voice against equality and freedom of women. Sadly, they forget that men have modesty too and they also can be a victim of sexual assaults. We being youth have to understand when we talk about equality we talk about its full essence. The human rights and gender quality both includes men and women. On the other hand, to widen the scope of gender equality the legislation first has to make the gender neutral laws. Secondly, the studies should be conducted to male harassment and to determine sexual offences against men.
· Indian Penal Code Bare Act, 1860
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