Sexual harassment is not gender-specific. True, women victims outnumber males, but men too are vulnerable to any sort of sexual assault. Recently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) notified new regulations, saying that male and transgender students can also file sexual harassment complaints from now on.
The UGC has made it mandatory for all higher education institutions to “act decisively against all gender-based violence perpetrated against employees and students of all sexes…”
This will bring in a fresh lease of power for all genders, who face sexual harassment from someone within the institute. There are many incidents of assault on male students that go unreported, because our society swears by the alpha male image.
In 2007, two male students of Ramjas College in Delhi University had filed complaint that the college Vice President BN Ray had made sexual advances on them. The incident turned up the heat against Ray, when the agitated students, accompanied by some faculty members, shouted slogans and burnt effigies of him in the college campus.
Delhi University was quick enough to amend its rules on sexual harassment after this incident. But many institutes across India still had formulated no such rules to tackle sexual abuse. With UGC’s recent declaration, all male and transgender students now can file complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee within three months of the incident or three months from the last incident, in case of a series of offences.
The committee will have to finish the investigation within 90 days. Action on the report will have to be taken within 30 days of its receipt.
Sexual assault on men is often seen as a joke. The society believes men are the aggressors in sexual attacks, and when the victim is a male, it tends to veer towards humiliation. The victim is more likely to become a laughing stock if he has been sexually assaulted, especially if the perpetrator was a woman.
Due to the disproportionate number of women who are survivors of sexual assault, it is often deemed solely a “women’s issue.” This may be because stereotypes and patriarchy cause most people to be more comfortable with the image of a woman being deprived of her power in a sexual assault than a man. Men and people of all genders also experience this form of violence.
The UGC’s move will sensitise institutes about the existence of all forms of sexual molestation. And perpetrators, who tend to choose their victims carefully, knowing that there is no rule to censure them, will have to stop victimising youth who fall into a vicious cycle of deceit and blackmailing.