by Sneha Agarwal
Anyone can be a victim of violence and harassment, but if a man complains he is either not heard or laughed at.
He was gang-raped, filmed nude, thrashed with belts, and objects were inserted into his private parts.
“Then they urinated on me,” the 19-year-old (name withheld) broke down, narrating his story to a helpline recently.
Given that Delhi is widely touted as the rape capital, this should have been just another statistic. But there’s a catch. The caller’s alleged tormentors were women, and all nearly twice his age.
In spite of being from an influential political family, the caller had no legal remedy. Counsellors had a tough time trying to figure out how courts could help him. To their dismay, they found that the Indian rape laws did not recognise a man as a victim. Being an adult, he could not have sought help under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act either.
The 19-year-old isn’t alone. Overcoming their male ego, stigma and conditioning, hundreds of men across the country are making that call to the helpline with trepidation, alleging that they were harassed, abused and victimised by women.
The 8882-498-498 helpline for men in distress, run by 40 NGOs across states, claim to have received 37,000 calls since it was launched a year ago.
Even if some of the calls are considered bogus, the number is staggering – more than a 100 each day.
And the calls to the helpline, SIF (Save Indian Family) One, are leaving counsellors puzzled. The callers do not seem to have much legal remedy. Counselors say Indian anti-rape laws do not see a male as a victim of any sex crime.
Ritwik Bisaria, counselor with SIF one, said, “We receive cases of men being implicated in false rape and dowry cases. On an average we receive 110 calls a day from across the country. About 65-75 per cent of the calls we receive are from the new callers.”
Most calls are received from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, according to the data collated by SIF. They constitute 55-60 per cent of the total calls made to the helpline.
The nature of calls being received from Delhi have moved beyond the false dowry cases, says Amit Lakhani, another counselor with SIF one.
“Apart from accusing the man for taking dowry, the charges of fake molestation and attempt to rape by husband’s family are also added.”
The helpline also receives calls from men who claim to have been sexually assaulted at the workplace.
“We received a call from a man whose wife made a call to his company and told them about a harassment case she has filed against him. The man was asked to resign without any particular reason,” Lakhani said. “While reasoning with the human resource personal, he broke into argument. The human resource manager filed a sexual harassment case against him. Now, he has a case filed by his wife and the office colleague.”
Kuldip Babbar, an advocate in Delhi runs a small helpline for distressed men who are the victims of misuse of Section 498A, said, “In the last decade, the number of calls being made by men across Delhi NCR have increased ten times. I get at least 50-60 calls in a month from men who are being victimised by their wives and her family.” His helpline number is 9311350315.
In dire straits
Babbar started his helpline in 2002 and has realised that there is a dire need of helpline that can solve issues of men in distress. “I received a case where a man was thrown out of his house and was not allowed to meet his two children after he transferred his ownership of the house to his wife. His wife had slapped 25 cases on him of harassment.
Such cases are eye-openers and reflect the need to have helpline that can also cater to the men and counsel them.
Khadijah Faruqui, human rights consultant at the Delhi women’s helpline number 181, told Mail Today that they receive calls from men also. “Every month, we receive at least 200 calls from men. There are calls related to false dowry cases, but we direct them to the other helpline,” he said. Faruqui said there has been a rise in calls by distressed males.
“All around us, relationships are breaking down. While there are several platforms for women, there is little that is available to men if they are harassed, abused, subjected to violence by their female partners or office colleagues. I get emails and calls from men saying they do not know who to talk to about such problems. Anyone can be a victim of violence and harassment, but if a man complains he is either not heard or laughed at. Suicide rate among men is rising. We need to have helplines for harassed men,” said Deepika Bhardwaj, journalist and film maker, who is currently working on a documentary on misuse of Section 498 A.
Article first published on India Today.