The definition of rape should be revised in a form that all the victims and perpetrators of those rapes fall under it, regardless of the sex of the individuals
In the medieval period, a newly fangled form of classical music named 'Ghetu song' came to light in the areas of northeastern Bengal. During that period, when flood occurred in the haor (inundated field), the influential and luxurious landlords would hire musical troupes where a ghetu (pleasure boy) would dance in the guise of women wearing female costumes to entertain him. Then, the influential landlords would take the opportunity and engage in forced pederasty with the ghetus who would become their unfortunate victims. However, in today's modern society, the culture of the ghetu song has no existence.
Although the context is different, and there may be differences between pederasty and male rape, the nature of sexual violence and the characteristics of the antagonists remain unchanged. Sexual exploitation has not disappeared from society. The recent trend of male rape cases is testament to that. This has become an alarming issue across the country.
The recent incidents of male rape cases have been highlighted in the media and the national dailies. According to DBC 24/7 News, on November 3rd in Laxmipur, police arrested a madrasa teacher on the allegation of raping adolescent students. Similarly, Dhaka Tribune reported that on July 20th, police arrested a Madrasa teacher of Sirajganj after a complaint being made for allegedly raping several minor boys.
From the same source, it was known that in September 2019 a case had been filed against a principal of Madrasa in Jaypurhat on the allegation of raping a minor boy of third grade. Another incident took place the previous year in Gazipur, where a man had committed suicide after being the victim of a gang-rape.
Apart from these incidents, the statistics by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) show that about 20 boys have suffered sexual harassment from January to September only this year. Naturally, the question that comes after this is what happened to the trials of the male rape cases and the punishment of the perpetrators. Many of us are left puzzled when it comes to conviction for male rape, due to unclear rape laws.
Loopholes in the rape laws
To begin with, section no. 375 of the Penal Code 1860 describes "a man is said to commit "rape" who except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under the circumstances falling under any of the five following descriptions […]". So, the definition of rape envisages that the victim would always be a woman or a child which is completely discriminatory. Hence, when the male victim files a case against the perpetrator/s, the law naturally will fail to give him a remedy, and he will be deprived of justice.
However, the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000 states that a "child" could be any individual below 16. Since there is no gender specification here; therefore, technically, it includes the male (child) rape victims as well. Thus, a male victim may file a case under this Act.
Meanwhile, the age limit of a child is under 18 in the Children Act 2013. Naturally, a question arises, when a child whose age falls between 16 and 18 gets raped, will the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000 Act be appropriate in that case?
Unfortunately, the answer might not be favour of the victim. So, despite being a child aged 16 to 18, he could be excluded from the safeguard of Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000.
Additionally, this crime might be filed under section 377 of the Penal Code 1860, which constitutes unnatural sexual offences. Here, it is essential to note that penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to be regarded as an offence described in this section. However, it is a matter of ambiguity that the definition and the degree of penetration have not been explained. Thus, an offender may get immunity despite committing this heinous crime.
Therefore, it is needless to say that the laws should be amended where vagueness exists. It is worth mentioning that the definition of rape should be revised in a form that all the victims and perpetrators of those rapes fall under it, regardless of the sex of the individuals.
In conclusion, it cannot be guaranteed that these crimes will come down after the law has been amended. So, how this will come to an end? Well, this is the million-dollar question! Nonetheless, I will argue that the answer to this question has always been known to us, which is we need to improve education and awareness on this issue.
Apart from this, we need to rectify our mistakes from the ground up; we cannot deny that we feel uncomfortable to talk about this sensitive topic. Besides, sex education in our country is still considered a taboo! Therefore, it is our moral responsibility to speak up and break the stereotypical mindset and stand against it, before it turns into a culture.
Shahriar Bin Wares is an apprentice Lawyer in the Dhaka Judge Court.