‘Society cannot imagine a man being harassed’



Anti-harassment cells for women in educational institutes isn’t uncommon, but the same facility is not commonly provided to men, mostly because it is assumed that men are hardly at the receiving end. But now, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has introduced a guideline stating that male students can now lodge a complaint against sexual harassment as well. Though students are hailing it as a positive step, they also tell us that since male sexual harassment has a stigma attached to it, the guideline can only work if they are given the confidence that they will not be victimized once they lodge a complaint.

So far, no one talked about the rights of men
Aakash Ahuja from Hindu College says that now the fight is about bringing men at par with women in this respect. “There are talks of feminism and women’s rights, but no one talks about the rights of men. There is definitely a stigma attached to male sexual harassment because society cannot imagine a man being harassed. Their masochism is associated with the society’s perception that nothing can happen to a man. This is one of the biggest reasons why men do not report such incidents.”

Sarabjot Singh, a student of SGTB Khalsa College, says that people should see the guideline as not in favour of a particular gender. “We should not differentiate between the two genders in this case. People think that men cannot be harassed – if you are being harassed then you are not a man. Even if one male student out of 10 complains after this regulation, I think it is a great step.”

‘Men have an additional stigma attached to sexual harassment’
Nandita Narain, president, DUTA, and former member of the council for setting up the Gender Neutral Policy in DU explains, “There were a lot of cases in the University that were reported, and after the 1997 Vishakha judgement, (guidelines dealing with sexual harassment at the workplace), a movement was started. According to that, every institution was asked to set up a policy looking at the sexual harassment cases, so a Gender Neutral Policy was set up under the new ordinance XV-D in Delhi University. It also had representatives from students and teachers who recognized that men can also be sexually harassed. But this was abolished in 2014 with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. The law is very sketchy and has no student representative,” she shares.

But she says the new guideline comes as a positive step which will help male students. She, however, adds, “Men coming out and talking about harassment has an additional stigma attached to it. It is like a loss of masochism for them. It is a result of societal conditioning.”

‘They should be given the confidence that they will not be victimized anymore’
Students also tell us that the authorities should treat a complainant in such a way that he should not be afraid to face any societal bias or pressure if he files a complaint. “If we wish to make this guideline work, then the identity of the person should remain anonymous. Or else they will face biased treatment,” says Jayant Rao from Hindu College. Sidharth from Ramjas College adds, “I don’t think it is more about masculinity, it is about losing self-respect. You lose respect in the eyes of society when you are harassed; this is the reason why one should be given the confidence that they will not face more discrimination after filing a complaint.”

Nandita Narain also suggests, “People want a safe mechanism where they are at least given the confidence that their identity will be kept a secret. The students should be given the confidence that they will not be victimized anymore once they lodge a complaint.”

Cases of male victims are less reported

Some students tell us that they have rarely come across an incident in their college where a male student was the victim of harassment. Jayant Rao of Hindu College says, “There are only a few cases that are reported and talked about, maybe because nobody is reacting to these cases. In our society, men hardly talk about sexual harassment – I think this is how we are brought up.” Aakash Ahuja agrees and says, “Maybe we don’t know about them because they are not being reported. Men are as afraid as anybody else, so they are apprehensive about talking about it.”

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