The outcry over the molestation of a woman student on campus at Banaras Hindu University has opened a can of worms. But in the long and sordid history of sexual violence at the institution, outlined by HuffPost India recently, the gangrape of a male student last year seldom comes into focus.
It's not that attacks against men deserve more attention than those perpetrated on women. When it comes to brutality and violation, no one has a monopoly or a competitive claim to justice. The truth, however, is that for a variety of reasons, usually fuelled by social stigma and shame, sexual abuse of men isn't reported as openly or widely as that of women. Ignoring such incidents results in reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes, by society, media and the system at large, and a vicious cycle of secrecy and assault is perpetuated.
According to reports, in August 2016, the victim, a Masters' degree student of Hindi, was allegedly forced to consume alcohol by five men, including an employee of BHU, and abducted in a car. For the next few hours, the kidnappers took turn to rape him repeatedly in the vehicle, as it was driven around the campus unchallenged by the security, including the patrolling vehicle of the proctorial board.
As if this ordeal wasn't horrific enough, when the victim was finally dumped on an open ground near the agriculture department, his calls to 100 remained unheeded. The police took four days to respond to the case, which, according to the victims' friends, the university authorities tried to suppress, by urging the victim not to file a formal complaint.
When a case was finally registered, the victim was made to undergo two medical tests, as if the trauma of sexual violence wasn't harrowing enough, and one of the accused who was the staff of the institution was served a chargesheet and spent six months in prison. A year on, the victim continues to study at BHU but now lives outside the campus.
Early last month, BHU had also asked a woman student to leave the girls' hostel, accusing her for showing "homosexual tendencies", the use of such a regressive phrase proving its deeply entrenched homophobia. It was also reported that the 'accused' was asked to have her "disease" treated. In the case of the gangrape of the man, too, the institution of higher education demonstrated a shockingly prejudiced mindset.