Male Victims of Sexual Assault and the Indian Laws

“Mumbai cop rapes cab driver for refusing a ride to a red-light area” was the main headline which was floating almost on every newspaper. For a moment it seemed like another dreadful add-on to the list of female rape cases but the staggering truth unveils the victim being a male cab driver who was raped by a Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable when he was relaxing on a bench near the railway station. This bizarre incident took place on 13th January 2020 which almost shocked the whole of the city. As per the report published by: The Indian Express

 “The constable was booked under sections 377 (Unnatural Sex), 394 (Voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery), 387 (Putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt, to commit extortion) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)” and not under section 375 since according to Indian laws, men cannot be raped in the least — they will only be “sodomized”, which is mentioned under Article 377 of the Indian penal code. Do you think that the justice given to the cab driver is fair enough?

1. Introduction

Rape is one of the most heinous and terrible crimes which not only causes physical torture but also emotionally paralyzes the victim and thus the victim tends to suffer from depression, emotional numbness, fear, shame, guilt, and sometimes they may have recurring dreams and nightmares.

As per section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
1. Rape is considered a gendered crime i.e.; it is always committed by a man.
2. It is assumed to be physically impossible for a woman to rape a man as it is easier for a person to forcibly penetrate a victim than a victim to face a compelled or forced penetration.

Thus, as per Indian laws rape is purely a gendered based crime. The majority of people are under the impression that men can’t be raped.
However, in reality, it has been found that a significant number of rapes have occurred even against men but the mindset that rape cannot happen with men distanced these rape survivors from seeking justice. The most common myth is that men are always up for “sex” and if men have an erection they must have wanted “sex”. It’s a common misconception that erection is a physical indication of consent. Erection is an involuntary process, it’s purely a physiological response to sudden action. Erection not only occurs out of sexual drives but also out of fear, anger, or terror. Thus, experiencing an erection during rape does not mean that the victim in some way permitted the rapist.

Rape against men take place in a variety of places including home, workplaces, schools, and mostly in prisons. In some respect, the conditions and situations faced by male rape victims are as pathetic and terrible as the female rape victims.

2. Male-on-male rape

Male on male rape is a very common type of violence that is seen during wartime. According to the Uganda-based Refugee Law Project  “Rape against men is an invisible crime in more than 25 countries affected by conflict, including Libya, Chile, Greece, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

According to the government reports around 5800 suffered sexual violence or were raped during Colombia’s 50 year-war between leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups, and government troops. Out of the 5800 victims, 650 were men who were raped by paramilitary groups in 1990. (Schulz,2019)  However, these numbers might not reveal the exact number of such cases due to underreporting as many male victims out of shame, guilt, confusion, and stigma prefer not to speak and thus become silent victims.

2.1. Historical evidence

Male on male rape was prevalent since the Antiquity. In ancient Greece, prisoners of wars (who were mostly men) were generally used as sex slaves. During the Sino-Japanese War, “Nanking” the capital of China was captured by Japanese forces. In order to require revenge and to interrupt the spirit of Chinese resistance, Japanese “General Matsui Iwane” ordered that the town of Nanking be destroyed. Much of the town was burned, and Japanese troops launched a campaign of atrocities against civilians. In what became known as the “Rape of Nanking,” the Japanese not only butchered and raped the women and girls but also the Chinese men. Moreover, they were also forced to rape each other in front of Japanese soldiers.

3. Female on male rape

The belief that a woman cannot rape a man is taboo in society and this type of violence has been seen in the college and institutional level where the undergrad’s male victims were forced by their female teachers to have sex with them. There are many instances where male victims reported that the perpetrator was their female partner or ex-partner where they were forced to penetrate or have sex without their consent.

As per the project report published under the “Experiences of men forced-to-penetrate women in the U.K ”, an online survey was conducted by Dr.Siobhan Weare, where over 30 men disclosed that they have been the victim of “forced-to-penetrate” and the consequences of rape were somewhat similar to female rape including negative mental health, inability to trust, depression and shock.

4. Why male victims don’t report?

Rape against men is an invisible crime and there are a number of factors that have led the male victims to hide and deny their victimization causing massive underreporting of such cases.
1. One of the biggest obstacles is the lack of support, awareness, and a comprehensive legal system. As per the Refugee Law Project, there are around 62 countries that don’t even acknowledge the possibility that men could be victims of rape. thus, leaving no room for justice for the male victims.

2. It is also because of the myths and stereotype thinking of the society that men are born strong and only weak men who disguise themselves as women may be raped.

3. In some cultures, there is a belief that a man once raped loses his masculinity and is no longer supposed to be called a man. They are rather considered as “Gay” which causes a serious problem in some countries such as Uganda where male victims can be arrested if they tried to report the rape.

5. Statistical evidence

1. The United States of America

 Source: The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) US data for the year 2008-17.

The above figure illustrates the trend of men rape cases in the US during 2008-17. Over a decade a sharp increase has been observed in the number of rape cases with the year 2012 showing the highest number of men rape cases i.e. 131259.

2. Australia

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

The above figure illustrates the trend of men’s rape cases in Australia during the year 2014-19. A significant increase has been found during the year 2014-16 followed by a slight decline till the year 2018. Furthermore, the cases started to rise again.

6. Indian laws on male rape

As per section 375, rape can only be done by a man. The major loopholes in the laws for the safeguard of the male from sexual assault are in the constitution itself. Article 14 states that “the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. Also as per Article 15, “the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”. Besides, clause 3 of Article 15 states that “nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for ladies and children”. Thus, it is legal on the part of the state to form the women-centric definition of rape which is stated in Section 375 IPC. But if we pass this logic state through an amendment in Section 375 IPC can protect males as mentioned in Article 15. In 2012 the Centre accepted the proposal as per the report made by The Law Commission in 2000, to replace the word “woman” with “person” to cover all the victims. The then UPA government thus notified the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance in February 2013, which adopted a gender-neutral definition of rape but due to strong objections raised by feminist groups, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 19, 2013, and the Rajya Sabha on March 21, 2013, was reverted to the gender-specific definition of rape.


From the above statistics, it is evident that not only the trend of male rape has increased over a decade but also it has become a sensitive issue as that of female rape and over seventy- seven countries have not only accepted male rape but also have established gender-neutral laws for rape. India could also provide for such statistics but due to the current Indian laws, there is no good way of determining the number of male victims in India. There is a need that Indian laws should recognize that men can be victims too and not just a rapist. It is important to offer male survivors a secure place where they’re believed and accepted.

When a female is raped she is often asked about her outfit and whether it was ‘inviting’ but when it comes to male victims they are usually questioned about their masculinity and sexual orientation because of the notion of the society that males who are raped must be either gay i.e., homosexual or extremely weak, fragile and not masculine. Some women-centred groups consider gender-neutral law as a threat or attack on feminism but it’s a time to change our mindset. A male cannot file a case of rape against a woman just because of gender biases, it could only be filed under sexual assault but not under rape even though the act might be the same. Rape is Rape! The rapist should be punished severely irrespective of the victim’s gender.


The views expressed in this article are the author's own.

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