A few years ago, the #MeToo movement took the world by storm. The movement was instrumental in breaking the time old taboo of victimhood and motivating women around the world to raise voice against unwanted sexual advances. It provided a platform for victims to speak out openly about their ordeals, which in turn helped in increasing awareness about sexual harassment, particularly at workplace. While the movement succeeded in bringing about a global solidarity and in highlighting the issue of unwanted sexual advances faced by women everywhere, the idea of #Me Too is not something that can be restricted to women alone.
Patriarchy and cultural stereotypes affect men too. There are increasing instances where men are being targeted at work place by their female superior/colleagues in a way that would easily qualify as sexual harassment, as per the definitions of law laid down to protect women, but unfortunately, such instances never see the light of the day due to deeply ingrained cultural assumptions about men.
The society does not allow/encourage male ‘victims’ to share stories of sexual harassment because it goes against the cultural idea of masculinity or the ‘macho image’ which society expects them to carry. It is extremely unfortunate that the Indian law’s perception of rape is solely based on a belief that a victim of a rape has to be a woman. Men and transgender people are also subjected to rape, as well as, physical assault and does not give equal importance to the rapes and sexual assaults on men and transgender people compare to sexual assault or rape of a woman. The lack of gender neutrality is evident and it is to be noted that the punishment for such heinous crimes should be equal irrespective of the gender of the victim.
Moreover, it is assumed that the rape is entirely an act of sex to satisfy the sexual desire of the perpetrator which has been contradicted with the growing awareness that sexual assault is not an act of lust but also an act of showcasing the dominance over one caste, community religion. Mostly there is lack of gender neutrality in Indian Rape Laws: Section 375 of the IPC solely talks about what is considered to be rape and it is specified that is considered rape only when the victim is woman. Whereas Section 377 talks about any unnatural intercourse with any man, woman, or animals are punishable up to ten years of imprisonment along with fines. Thus, no separate defined laws have been created for men or even transgender people.
Gender neutral rights are not only important to prevail equality in the society but also, it gives all human beings a sense of security. Gender neutrality when practiced in its true sense, helps to create a balance in the society and demolished the sense of superiority that generally gives rise to crimes. It is the sense of superiority that makes a man commit the murder of his own wife for dowries or even raping minors to take out the grudges that the perpetrator might have on the minor’s family, as we have seen in the many case. Gender neutrality should prevail through the laws and the rights to be enjoyed by all should be truly enjoyed by all the citizens irrespective of their gender.